This year’s Sports Personality of the Year will probably be the most hotly contested and success-heavy for at least a generation and the Impact writers couldn’t resist voicing their opinions.
The poster girl of the London Olympics has had a year to remember. More than any other member of Team GB, Ennis had to shoulder the expectations of an entire nation, with her image even splashed across the Heathrow flight path. This pressure was intensified on a personal level by the trauma of missing out at the Beijing Olympics and then conceding her World Championship title in 2011. The pride of Sheffield delivered in style this year, clinching heptathlon gold with a dominant performance that kick-started the best night in British athletics history. She broke her own national record by claiming an astonishing 6,955 points, the fifth best score of all time, to finish 306 points clear of second place. To put that into context, 306 points covers the gap from second to eleventh place, with points to spare. In the words of Denise Lewis, another British heptathlon champion, “We have witnessed greatness”. In addition to this incredible feat, she also charmed the public with her humility, happiness and tears after winning the 800m in front of a TV audience of 16.3 million. Despite having a stand at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane named in her honour, Ennis is unlucky in that she only competed in one event – she pulled out of the 100 metre hurdles in spite of the fact that she was fourth fastest in the world. Winning just one gold in 2012 does not make her stand out as it normally would.
In 2012, Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, holding the yellow jersey from stage seven through to the finish. This achievement is perhaps the most impressive in our national sporting history, but he wasn’t done yet. Just 19 days after winning the Tour, Wiggo won gold in the Olympic time trial. That triumph makes him Britain’s joint-most successful Olympian in terms of medals won, with only Sir Chris Hoy standing beside him on seven medals. These phenomenal accomplishments haven’t changed the media-shy Londoner though, and he has gained many fans along the way with his cool, down-to-earth attitude, and his nickname as the ‘King of the Mods’.
His sporting spirit has also shone through, particularly in his actions during stage 14 of the Tour. When a rival’s bike fell foul to tacks, Wiggins slowed down to allow him to catch up with the leading pack, causing the French press to label him “Le Gentleman”. However, the only thing standing in the way of him taking the SPOTY prize, is a sense that his own Olympic triumph was a leveller to the agonising defeat in the road race just days earlier.
Simmonds is the 17 year-old swimmer who was brought to national fame when she was just 13 at the Beijing Paralympics, winning two gold medals. Her selection for Team GB was never in question and she proved her star status by winning another two gold medals and breaking two World Records.
Having won the 2008 Young Athlete of the Year Award, Ellie Simmonds became the face of the London Paralympics and continues to raise the profile of Paralympians. Ellie has achondroplastic dwarfism and competes in the S6 division in the 400m Freestyle, 200m Individual Medley, 50m Freestyle and 100m Freestyle. She now holds 10 World titles, 5 European titles and has broken 8 World Records on shooting her way to stardom.
At the age of 17, Simmonds could well become the Phelps of the Paralympic arena and will surely dominate events in the pool for at least another decade. A perfect year for Simmonds, two golds and two world records to boot.
At age 36, Grainger capitalised upon her previous Olympic experience and determination by securing the gold medal in the Women’s Double Sculls Olympic race earlier this year. Having competed in 3 previous Olympics, she is heralded as the most successful British female rower of all time; she won silver medals in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and has 6 world championship titles. She closes a spectacular career with a deserved gold medal in one of Britain’s most favoured and successful sports.
She took up rowing in her first year at Edinburgh University and continued on to become the President of Edinburgh University Boat Club in 1996/97. Grainger was appointed MBE in 2006 for services to rowing, and her Olympic achievements make her the first female Brit – in any sport – to gain medals in four consecutive Olympic Games.
Grainger’s story of three silvers dominated proceedings at Eton Dorney this summer. Her three silvers tell vastly different stories: the surprise silver of 2000, the expected silver of 2004, and the crushing silver of 2008. Gold was well-deserved for Britain’s greatest oarswoman.
One of the least-exalted names from this summer’s incredible Olympic Games was that of cyclist Jason Kenny. Yet the Boltonian was joint most successful of all our Olympic athletes, racking up two gold medals in the Velodrome. Kenny’s achievement is all the more impressive given the fact that he has succeeded arguably Britain’s most successful rider in history, Chris Hoy. Kenny was controversially selected for the Individual Sprint ahead of the Scotsman and thoroughly justified that selection with a masterful display in the final against powerful Frenchman Gregory Bauge. Kenny was the star performer at Britain’s most successful venue, the Velodrome, the place one national daily termed ‘The Medal Factory’.
Unfortunately for Kenny, the achievements of others have overshadowed his own and that second night in the Stadium, and in particular the first leg of Farah’s extraordinary Games, is one that will feature heavily in British history books in decades to come. Furthermore, Bradley Wiggins’ triumph in the Tour de France will no doubt be singled out as the cycling highlight of the year, thus bumping Kenny’s feat slightly down the pecking order. However, at the young age of 24, the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro will provide another chance for Kenny to rack up the medals and achieve the recognition he deserves.
In any other year, Andy Murray would have strolled to the Sports Personality victory. Not since Fred Perry won the U.S. Open in 1936 has Britain produced a Grand Slam winner, and not since Bunny Austin in 1938 has our country had a finalist at SW19. There is no pressure in tennis greater than that on the men’s British number one, a pressure that came to define the career of Tim Henman before Murray. In 2012, Murray has rewritten both of the aforementioned records, yet the Sports Personality award is just out of reach this year. Since the Scot’s first Grand Slam final defeat to Roger Federer at Flushing Meadows in 2008, the whole nation has toiled with Murray as he again and again fell one short of the great prize, losing to all of the big three: Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Most distressing of these defeats was to the Swiss at this year’s Wimbledon, where an imperious Federer tore Murray apart after the first set. This was ironically enough perhaps the lowest point of Murray’s career: a fourth Slam final defeat in a row and this one on home turf to a man some thought to be a declining power. But Olympic gold, beating Federer on Centre Court in the final, gave him the platform to produce his best ever tennis to defeat Djokovic in the U.S. Open final and banish the demons that must have haunted him for the last four years. Had he won Wimbledon he may have got the nod, but unfortunately for him he came of age in the greatest of Olympic years.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Finally we come to the winner of this year’s Impact SPOTY award: Mo Farah. The ‘Mobot’ was the most iconic celebration of the Games in London, and its creator, Mo Farah, arguably the Games’ most iconic figure. Farah was only the seventh man ever to achieve the 5,000 and 10,000 metre double at the Olympic Games and the first man from our great isle to do so. Farah was supreme in the 10,000 in defeating arguably the greatest long distance runner of all time, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele and then in the 5,000 beating the great Kenyan-American, Bernard Lagat.
Farah’s success was no doubt enhanced by his incredible humility, his rise to greatness from such humble beginnings and the image of him climbing the Stadium to embrace his wife and daughter will live long in the memory. That image coupled with the fact that Farah’s 10,000 victory came on the same night as golds for heptathlete, Jessica Ennis and long jumper, Greg Rutherford, the greatest night in the history of British athletics, has both served to romanticise Farah’s rise to the summit of sporting greatness. In a year when the undeniable patriotic spirit encapsulated the masses during the London Games, everyone will remember where they were on that fateful August evening, and it’s all because of Mo.
“In any other year the award would be Murray’s, but after winning the Tour de France and Olympic gold while still remaining humble and grounded, Bradley Wiggins deserves it.” Josh Jackman
“Ultimately it’s a toss-up between Farah and Wiggins with Murray a close third; but given the tumultuous end to the year for the cycling and the fantastic show of Britishness and British sporting talent that the Games represented, Farah edges it for me”. William Cook
“The Olympics have brought so much talent to light that this year is incomparable with any other. I would love for Jessica Ennis to win, the poster girl of the Olympics proved her talent even with all of Britain’s expectations upon her. Her sport is also one of the most testing as it requires skills in numerous disciplines, so …. TEAM JESS!” Colette Davies
The Brownlee Brothers- 5%
Mo Farah- 45%
Andy Murray- 5%
David Weir- 5%
Bradley Wiggins- 40%
Josh Jackman, Colette Davies and William Cook