WHEN Bradley Wiggins blew his rivals away to win gold in the time trials last month, he appeared to be a shoo-in for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.
He already had six Olympic cycling medals to his name before London 2012 and just a week prior to the Games became the first British rider to win the Tour de France, cycling’s greatest prize. At that point, it seemed as though all bets were off because surely nobody was going to be able to match that?
In any other year they probably wouldn’t, but over the past seven weeks we have witnessed some astonishing performances from our Olympic and Paralympic athletes in what has been Britain’s best ever sporting summer. We’ve had multiple gold medal winners and in the small hours of yesterday morning, Andy Murrray finally gave Britain its first men’s singles grand slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936, when he beat Novak Djokovic in a thrilling US Open final in New York.
All of which promises to make this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award the toughest in its history. The annual competition is often either a feast or famine and it’s fair to say there are past winners who wouldn’t even get close to this year’s shortlist, never mind actually getting their hands on the trophy. In 1997, tennis player Greg Rusedski won after getting beaten in the final of the US Open, while the following year Michael Owen picked up the award on the back of his wonder goal against Argentina – the team that knocked us out of the World Cup.
But 2012 has proved to be a vintage year although exactly who will the make the final cut seems to have provoked more questions than answers, such as will any non-Olympians or Paralympians make the shortlist? One thing that is for sure is there won’t be any footballers among the list of contenders.
So who is in the running this time around? Some people have said it’s impossible to choose one single person but as it stands Bradley Wiggins is the bookmakers favourite at 11/10, closely followed by Andy Murray (5/2), whose historic victory at Flushing Meadows helped him nudge ahead of Mo Farah in the betting stakes.
Everyone, of course, has their own personal favourite. Farah won both the 5,000m and 10,000m in dramatic fashion and his now ubiquitous “Mobot” celebration has become one of the enduring images of the Games. Commentator Brendan Foster called Farah’s achievements the greatest British athletics performances of all time and it’s hard to argue against him.
Then there’s Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis. As the poster girl of the London Olympics she had the weight of the nation on her shoulders, but rather than buckling under the pressure she rose to the challenge producing personal bests along the way as she romped home to the gold medal. Last year, there wasn’t a single female on the shortlist but Ennis’s achievements and her starring role on what was dubbed “Super Saturday” make her a potential winner.
There’s also Sir Chris Hoy, who won the 2008 Sports Personality of the Year after his exploits at the Beijing Olympics and reinforced his legendary status in London when he supplanted Sir Steve Redgrave as the most decorated British Olympian of all time.
But what about the Paralympians? In a great summer of sport that has done so much to unite and inspire people, wouldn’t it be fitting if the award went to one of our Paralympic stars?
Like Ennis, Ellie Simmonds was the “face of the Games” and the 17 year-old not only melted people’s hearts she proved a formidable competitor, breaking world records in the pool and finishing with four medals.
Sarah Storey was another star performer whose incredible performances blurred the boundaries between Olympic and Paralympic. But if we’re talking medals then David Weir’s four golds takes some beating. It’s not uncommon to win multiple events in the pool, but it is on the athletics track which makes the achievements of the man they call the “Weirwolf” all the more astonishing.
There are many others that probably won’t get a look in such as Yorkshire’s Nicola Adams, the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal, and the double gold winning track cyclist Laura Trott. Not to mention Jonnie Peacock, the popular Paralympic 100 metres champion, or Sophie Christiansen, who won a hat-trick of gold medals in the dressage.
The bookies have their favourites but it’s still too close to call and who’s to say this remarkable year of sport won’t have one last surprise for us.