The British sporting year of 2014 will reach its climax on Sunday, with the annual SPOTY awards. Charlie Morgan runs us through the ten candidates and explains why they each deserve the crown.
After another year of trials and tribulations for British sport, the year will once again be rounded off by the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) ceremony in Glasgow this Sunday. The awards will be a chance to celebrate the success of some of Britain’s finest sportsmen and women. Here’s the Exeposé Sport guide to each of the contenders for this year’s prize. Just do not expect to find any of the comedy cast that travelled to Brazil and represented us in the World Cup to be on the shortlist.
Carl Froch – Boxing – Age: 37
The man who has “ingredients you can’t teach, ingredients you’re born with” (his words, though who would argue with him) fended off George Groves in May to maintain his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles. A huge right-hand knockout in front of a post-World War II record 80,000 fans at Wembley stadium ensured this. There’s no doubt this was one of the greatest spectacles of 2014’s sporting calendar, but does one admittedly huge punch maketh the man? We will find out.
Jo Pavey – Athletics – Age: 41
Athletics has produced 17 SPOTY winners, more than any other sport, and Jo Pavey is the latest in a long line of tremendous athletes. The Exeter athlete became the oldest-ever female European champion in Zurich in August by winning the 10,000m and also won a bronze medal in the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games. The 41 year old will return to Glasgow as a fan-favourite of the city. William Hill has her as the fourth favourite (at time of writing) to win the competition but, regardless of the result, we think she deserves a spot in British Athletics’ history books. Exeposé’s Online Sport Editor Freddie Turner agrees, saying: “It’s brilliant to see a local athlete make the list. Her story is a brilliant one, showing that persistence is key and highlighting the strength in never giving up on your ambitions.”
Gareth Bale – Football – Age: 25
Spain’s financial troubles over the last few years have seemed to hit everything except their football clubs; Real Madrid handed over £85m for the services of Tottenham and Wales starlet Gareth Bale, and the results have been immediate. Bale managed 22 goals and 16 assists for the Galácticos last season, as well as a goal in the Champions League Final and an outrageous winning goal in the Copa Del Ray final. Though perhaps one of the most recognisable on the list, footballers often are overlooked for this award; Bale’s compatriot Ryan Giggs was the last footballer to be shortlisted back in 2009.
Rory McIlroy – Golf – Age: 25
William Hill’s odds-on favourite and world number one Rory McIlory has enjoyed another stellar year at the top of his game. He won The Open Championship and the US PGA title and became the third youngest player to win three of the four majors. The Masters at Augusta remains his target, but we think he has a great chance to win the SPOTY award this year. He has arguably the highest profile of anyone on the list, and former Exeposé Online Sport Editor Jamie Klein thinks he should come out on top: “Lewis [Hamilton] had only one (very worthy) adversary for his championship, whereas McIlroy held off a marauding pack who started both of his winning tournaments with a theoretically equal chance of success.” Perhaps the only thing standing in McIlroy’s way could be public perception after his break up with tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki.
Lewis Hamilton – Formula 1 – Age: 29
McIlroy’s main competition for the award, and one of Britain’s most talented and recognisable sporting stars, Lewis Hamilton won 11 races during the 2014 championship and pipped teammate Nico Rosberg to the title at the last race in Abu Dhabi. Arguably Britain’s most successful modern formula 1 driver, Hamilton came second in 2008’s SPOTY to cyclist Chris Hoy. Being William Hill’s second favourite at 5/2, many would not bet against him winning it this time round; I personally think Hamilton should win because of his sheer determination and outright passion for his sport, but we will have to wait to Glasgow to find out. Exeposé sport’s Oli Davis was hugely impressed by Hamilton’s performance, saying: “Though written off for the Championship at Spa, he [Hamilton] produced almost the perfect driving performance the rest of the way.
Max Whitlock – Gymnastics – Age: 21
After impressing at London 2012 with a bronze medal in both the pommel horse final and team event, Whitlock has surpassed that this year and picked up a range of medals from a variety of competitions. He took home the gold from the pommel horse final at the European Championships, as well three golds, a silver and a bronze medal from the Commonwealth games in Glasgow. To further add to his medal collection he equalled the best all-round finish by a Briton at the World Championships, winning a silver medal in China at the World Championships. A gymnast has never won the Sports Personality award but, with such a wealth of talent and medals at such a young age, Whitlock has put forward a very strong case this year.
Adam Peaty – Swimming – Age: 19
Peaty managed to single-handedly make most 19 year-olds revaluate their own lives and successes; he has managed to break into swimming’s top tier and became a double gold medallist at the Commonwealth games and four-time European champion. As some salt in the wounds of other world swimmers, he broke the 50m-breaststroke world record; perhaps nobody on the shortlist has enjoyed such a wealth of success in different disciplines within their sport. Though he is a 100/1 outsider on William Hill, nobody could say he did not deserve it should he win.
Charlotte Dujardin – Dressage – Age: 29
One of British sport’s most consistent performers, Dujardin can claim to be the first British rider to be Olympic, World and European champion in dressage history, an incredibly impressive feat. She also holds all three records in the three elements of her sport, and was voted the 2014 Sky Sports/Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year. That’s a very impressive CV for someone so young and, as William Hill’s fifth favourite to win, she has a genuine chance. Perhaps she can follow in the footsteps of Princess Anne and Zara Phillips, the last two equestrian riders to win the award.
Charlotte Evans (age: 23) and Kelly Gallagher (age: 29) – Skiing
One the most inspiring of this year’s contenders, Kelly Gallagher took the gold medal in the visually impaired Super-G at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympic games with the help of her guide Charlotte Evans. Using Bluetooth headsets to communicate as Gallagher skied down the course, they became the first UK competitors to win a Winter Paralympics gold medal; their inspiring success just proves what drive and determination can do over any disability. The two have already been awarded MBE’s for services to sport for people who are visually impaired; can they add the SPOTY award to their deserved collection?
Lizzy Yarnold – Age: 26 – Skeleton
Another of Britain’s starlets from Sochi, Yarnold followed in the wake of another sporting great Amy Williams and took the gold medal in the Women’s skeleton event at this year’s Winter Games, Britain’s only gold medal. Her winning margin of 0.97 seconds was the largest ever recorded and, to top it off, she won four of eight Skeleton World Cup races to take home the World Cup title. Sheer domination in her field has lead to her nomination, and deservedly so.
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