Cockroft, Marray and Adams all earned our affections

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With so many remarkable accomplishments to choose from, it is hardly surprising that three people across a broad cross-section of sport shared fourth place in our search for Yorkshire’s Sports Star of 2012.

Over the next three days we will count down to the person you, our readers, voted for as your Yorkshire Post Sports Star of 2012.

As we have all discovered, selecting a champion in this most memorable of years has not been easy, as illustrated by the three-way tie in fourth place between people representing the worlds of tennis, boxing and the Paralympics.

Gaining four per cent of the vote apiece were Wimbledon doubles champion Jonny Marray, Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams and double Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft.

For Cockroft, the nomination caps a wonderful, life-affirming year.

The 20-year-old from Halifax captured the hearts of the nation at the London 2012 Paralympics.

She was the happy-go-lucky wheelchair sprinter who had a smile as wide as the Olympic Stadium track she dominated.

But underneath it all was a fierce streak.

Having won her first gold in the T34 100m, to the delight of the crowd, her competitive nature was shown as she waited in the call room to go onto the track for the 200m final.

“Go easy on us today Hannah,” said one of her rivals.

“I’m not here to be nice to you,” was her quick-as-a-flash retort.

It was this which defined the champion mentality of one of the stars of the London Paralympic Games.

“This is a really nice honour and I’m privileged to have been voted so high,” said Cockroft yesterday.

“Thank you very much.”

Sharing fourth place is a woman for whom a gold medal meant the rewriting of the history books.

Leeds flyweight Adams became the first woman to win an Olympic title in women’s boxing when she stormed to success in the ExCel Arena.

Hers was one of the most uplifting stories of this magical summer.

It was not just her quick combinations, deadly hands or her cheeky interpretation of the ‘Ali Shuffle’ that set her apart. It was the fact that she did it all with a smile on her face.

Like Cockroft, Adams had a smile that lit up London. Many an athlete shrunk on the biggest stage of all, beset by nerves that all the preparation and hard work would come down to this one moment of truth.

Cockroft and Adams rose to the occasion, revelled in it in fact. It was almost as if they had been born for their moment in the spotlight and would cling on to it for as long as they could.

Cockroft added: “I know Nicola well, we have spent a lot of time together.

“She really is someone who has a smile on her face for everything she does and it’s great that we have both been recognised.”

What set Adams apart, and arguably what inspired the voters among you, was that we knew the back story.

In the Yorkshire Post we have followed Adams for many a year. Through the junior tournaments to the world finals, to the brink of despair when she injured her back in 2009, to the top step of the most revered medal podium of all.

Adams has been one of the most evocative of stories of this unforgettable year.

She has emerged from her Olympic triumph as one of the real superstars of Team GB, with chat show appearances and magazine interviews aplenty.

And then there is Marray, the surprise package in this honour-laden annus mirabilis.

While 2012 for the likes of Cockroft and Adams was always a goal for which they could aim, Sheffield tennis player Marray approached the year like it was any other, just hoping to do enough to remain competitive and retain his status for the following 12 months.

What he accomplished during Wimbledon fortnight shocked not only the watching nation, but himself.

Marray always believed he could mix it with the best, but until a sportsman does so on a regular basis, their self-belief starts to erode.

Marray has been a journeyman for much of his career, scraping a living on the second-tier tours.

But at the ripe old age of 31 he tapped into something deep within himself that saw him elevate his game beyond anything he had hitherto produced.

It was a fantastic effort from this humble young man as he and his Danish partner Freddie Nielsen defeated seeded duo after seeded duo to reach the men’s doubles final at the All England Club.

Then on the first Saturday in July, Marray and Neilsen drew on even greater reserves of mental strength to beat Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau of Romania in an epic five-set final on centre court.

As one voter on the Yorkshire Post website put it, this was a “massive overachievement in the only six-round, five-set grand slam doubles tournament”.

Marray was the regular professional, an ATP also-ran who claimed a historic victory when everyone around him had been expecting Andy Murray to be the man to end the country’s long wait for a male champion.

All three have been feted for their once-in-a-lifetime summer accomplishments.

Marray returned to his local tennis club at Hallamshire to a reception attended by more than 200 friends, family and members.

Cockroft was given the freedom of Halifax, while Adams was given a hero’s welcome when she returned to her home city of Leeds.

In any other year, these three might have been our winners.

But find out over the next three days who our champion is, with the unveiling of our winner and recipient of our award sponsored by Jackson Trophies, on Saturday.