The BBC’s coveted Sports Personality Of The Year award has, as we all know, a misleading title. You might be forgiven for thinking charisma, charm and amiability come into the reckoning, when it fact, this is a gong which represents which individual has achieved the most in sporting terms over the year.
While in previous years the competition has been a closely fought public vote between the leading candidates, this year there appears to be one clear favourite to walk away with the top prize. Andy Murray (1/7 with some betting providers) has enjoyed a watershed year on tennis’s world circuit, not only winning Wimbledon and retaining his Olympic title, but also finally making it to the top of the world rankings for the first time.
It could be the defining moment of a career that has seen Murray play second fiddle so often, albeit to all-time greats in the shape of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and, most recently, Novak Djokovic. Murray ensured he will finish 2016 at number one with victory over his Serbian rival Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals in London and now threatens to start an era of his own dominance – payback time for his many second place finishes in the Grand Slams and just rewards for his unbreakable spirit and determination to eventually come out on top.
The only possible way a Murray win in Sports Personality Of The Year 2016 seems likely to be scuppered is if the pro-English, anti-Scottish sports fans rear their ugly head and vote for other candidates in order to prevent Murray from walking away with the trophy. It is a sad reality of being a Scottish sporting superstar south of the border that Murray hasn’t always been taken to the heart of British tennis in the same way that, say, Tim Henman was, but surely the time is now for the entire country to show their appreciation for the Dunblane supremo.
Murray’s position as overwhelming favourite shouldn’t mean that others don’t enjoy recognition, or indeed have a chance of springing a surprise. Alistair Brownlee (8/1) retained his triathlon title in the Rio Olympic Games, and became the first athlete to win the event twice – but could triathlon’s relative obscurity in the sporting consciousness of the British public be Brownlee’s downfall?
They might like instead to vote for Mo Farah (33/1), the long-distance running star, who successfully defended his 5,000m and 10,000m titles in Rio – only the second athlete ever to do so. It is a remarkable feat which places him in the elite of British athletes, but voters have shown a historical reluctance to side with track and field stars – the last track and field specialist to win the award was Kelly Holmes back in 2004.
There are plenty of nominees that deserve more than just a mention, and might win second, third or even cause a shock by taking top spot. They include Laura Kenny (28/1), who won gold on Rio’s cycling track in both the team pursuit and Omnium, retaining the titles she won in London. And don’t forget Gareth Bale (50/1), once the world’s most expensive footballer. He led Wales to a semi-final berth at the European Championships in France and was an influential factor in his club Real Madrid grabbing another Champions League title.
They are joined on the nominee list by Equestrian Olympic champion Nick Skelton (40/1), who took home a gold for the second successive year, Jamie Vardy (60/1), who was at the forefront of Leicester City’s astonishing romp to the Premier League title, and Nicola Adams (250/1), the double Olympic boxing champion.
If Murray can take home the award for the third time, it will mirror the relentless pursuit of excellence that has characterised his tennis – seemingly surrounded by magicians and icons that risk him being labelled as a ‘nearly man’, Murray has carved out his own place in tennis history through a combination of hard work, belief, and the hunger to constantly improve himself. He has battled through injuries, chopped and changed coaches when necessary, and ignored his doubters to reach the top of his profession, and the British public look set to recognise this at the ceremony on Sunday 18th December.