Sebastian Coe yesterday expressed his surprise at the absence of any women sports stars on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
Cyclist Mark Cavendish is the favourite from a list that includes three golfers, two athletes, two cricketers, a boxer and a tennis player.
There was no place for three world champions from Yorkshire in triathlete Alistair Brownlee, squash player Nick Matthew and tae kwon do athlete Sarah Stevenson. European boxing champion Nicola Adams was also overlooked, as was heptathlete Jessica Ennis, who won a silver medal at the world championships.
The list was decided upon by a panel of sports editors and the absence of any women has caused quite a stir.
And Coe – who won the accolade in 1979 and is now chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) – admitted yesterday: “I did find it slightly odd.
“There’s Sarah Stevenson who could have been shortlisted but also from my own sport we’ve just had two silver medals in the world championships from Hannah England and Jess Ennis.
“And Rebecca Adlington won a world title earlier in the year.
“These are always good, healthy debates but I have to be honest, I was slightly surprised not to see any of our great female performers on there.”
Doncaster’s Stevenson, who lost both her parents to illness this year, was one of many to respond to the lack of acknowledgment, by saying on Twitter: “Thanks all for your comments about not being nominated. It’s a shame, but just how it is! I’ll keep fighting for my parents, not for #SPOTY”.
Even Sheffield’s Matthew turned the continued ignorance of the credentials of squash and himself into an opportunity to question the lack of female representation.
He tweeted: “Ridiculous amount of support re.the non @BBCSPOTY entry. Thanks guys. Think the lack of a female in the top 10 is a bigger issue though”.
But Carl Doran, editor of Sports Personality of the Year, insisted the voting process is fair and that a balance of all sporting achievements will be included in next month’s show.
“Undoubtedly it is a shame there are no female contenders in the top 10 this year, despite some coming extremely close,” said Doran.
“It is worth noting that many of the papers did have women in their shortlists – and that this is the first time there has been no female representation since the current system was put in place during my first year in charge.
“As ever, along with celebrating the top 10, we will endeavour to reflect the sporting spectrum in this year’s Sports Personality of the Year show, on December 22.”
Coe was in Leeds yesterday on a whistle-stop tour of the north of England. He met representatives from two London 2012 Inspire projects, Spirit Alive and Walk the History of the Games, and visited pupils at the city’s Gledhow Primary School.
Coe also met City of Leeds divers Sarah Barrow and Jack Laugher, 16, of Harrogate. The latter has been shortlisted for the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year award for his effortless transition from junior to senior ranks.