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SPOTY 2013: Can anyone stop Andy Murray?


December is upon us, signalling the imminent arrival of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award (SPOTY). The 60th anniversary award ceremony will be held in Leeds on the 15th December and once again the public can vote for its ‘champion of champions’. Although the night can fall into trap of favouring glitz over genuine achievement, and the award continues to fail in recognising the achievement of women in sport, it is nonetheless a huge talking point of the sporting year.

The Pretenders:

AP McCoy. Photo: danheap77 (Flickr)
AP McCoy. Photo: danheap77 (Flickr)

AP McCoy (Horse Racing): McCoy’s nomination echoes the shocking selection of Ryan Giggs in 2009. The selection committee seems to find it difficult to distinguish between what constitutes as notable achievements for the year and for a career. In November, McCoy, the 2010 SPOTY winner, rode his 4,000th winner which is a remarkable milestone in his sport. This certainly warrants a lifetime achievement award in the future but not a nomination for this year.  To be honest, I don’t understand why the horses don’t get nominated; at least they do the hard work!

Verdict: I vote ‘neigh’ to McCoy’s nomination and instead would nominate Non Stanford. Stanford won the ITU World Triathlon Championships in London this year, proving that she is an incredible triple-threat athlete who truly earns her wins, rather than sitting on top of a horse.

Christine Ohuruogu (Athletics):Ohuruogu’s 400m gold medal winning performance at the World Athletics Championships is certainly worthy of a SPOTY nomination. However, Ohuruogo’s selection is uncomfortable because of her drug record. Ohuruogu never doped, but she did miss a string of drug tests between 2005 and 2007. This earned her a lifetime Olympic ban by GB athletics, which was subsequently overturned before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After drugs scandals including Lance Armstrong, any athlete with a murky doping history should not be winning awards.

Verdict: My jaw would drop to the floor in shock if Ohuruogu gets 3rd. I would replace her nomination with Becky James, who won four medals at the World Track Cycling Championships this year. Considering how much we love cyclists why hasn’t James been nominated?

The Dark Horse Contenders:

Ben Ainslie. Photo: Dansk  Sejlunion
Ben Ainslie. Photo: Dansk Sejlunion

Sir Ben Ainslie (Sailing): When it comes to British seafaring icons, Ainslie is held in the same category as Sir Francis Drake. He has a loyal fan base and has had previous SPOTY nominations. After leading Oracle Team USA to a miraculous comeback victory in the America’s Cup from an 8-1 deficit to a 9-8 win over Team New Zealand, Ainslie is riding a new wave of adulation.

Verdict: I don’t think he will make third but his place on the shortlist is deserved nonetheless.

Hannah Cockcroft (Athletics): When someone completely dominates their sporting field, they are entirely worthy of high praise and Cockcroft is no exception. She won the 100m and 200m T34 wheelchair sprint at the IPC World Athletics Championship, even breaking the Championship record, which follows on from her excellent performance at the 2012 London Paralympics.

Verdict: Unlikely to make third but, like Ainslie, should still be on the shortlist.

Leigh Halfpenny (Rugby Union): After a superb series win over Australia, it is no surprise that the British and Irish Lions have representation in SPOTY. As ‘Man of the Series’, Halfpenny is understandably the player to represent the efforts of the squad. He kicked a record 21 points in the third test and broke Neil Jenkins’ record for points scored on a Lions tour. He also contributed significantly to Wales’ Six Nations triumph.

Verdict: It would take a significant turnout from both Welsh voters and rugby fans to get Halfpenny third place.

Ian Bell (Cricket): Bell’s performance throughout this summer’s Ashes was simply outstanding. He amassed 562 runs in five tests, had a 62 run average and became the fifth Englishman to score three consecutive Ashes centuries. Bell truly silenced his critics and inspired England to a 3-0 series win.

Verdict: I believe that with a strong voting turnout from cricket fans, Bell could be in with a slight chance of third. I won’t be the one to rule him out.


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Likely contenders for second and third:

Justin Rose (Golf): Initially I had Rose listed as a dark horse. However, after remembering the nomination of three golfers in 2011, with Darren Clarke coming second, I realised that golfers generally do very well in SPOTY. Therefore, I believe that Rose has a real chance of reaching third. Rose played some excellent golf to win the US Open, becoming the first Englishman to win a Major since Nick Faldo in 1996 (the 1989 SPOTY winner).

Verdict: Rose deserves to be on the shortlist and is in with a decent shout of taking home third.

Mo Farah (Athletics): Arguably the most likeable athlete in Britain, Farah had a tremendous summer, becoming the second man in history to achieve a ‘double-double’. Only Kenenisa Bekele has also won gold in the 5000m and 10,000m in both the Olympics and World Athletics Championships. What’s more, Mo also broke Steve Cram’s 1500m GB record.

Verdict: Farah could very well be doing the Mobot on stage with either the second or third place award.

Chris Froome (Cycling): Britain seems to love its cyclists. Chris Hoy won SPOTY in 2008, with Mark Cavendish in 2011 and Bradley Wiggins in 2012 also winning. After winning the jewel in cycling’s crown, the Tour de France, Froome is automatically in serious contention for a SPOTY award.

Verdict: Highly favoured for second or third. The only thing stopping Froome from winning is a certain tennis player from Dunblane.

Andy Murray. Photo: Marianne Bevis (Flickr)
Andy Murray. Photo: Marianne Bevis (Flickr)

The Nailed-on Favourite:

Andy Murray (Tennis): Some say that Murray is Scottish when he loses and British when he wins. After winning Wimbledon he is most certainly British and is expected to receive an overwhelming proportion of votes from the public. Greg Rusedski won SPOTY in 1997 after losing the US Open Final, proving that the British public are willing to adore anyone who plays tennis at an above average level. Now that we have a world-class Wimbledon winner, I don’t see how Murray can lose. I’m expecting a lot of tears from Judy Murray, Kim Sears and Sue Barker to add to a lengthy standing ovation as he accepts his prize.

George Knight

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