My immediate reaction when I saw the shortlist of twelve nominations for Sports Personality of the Year was that it was fairly uninspiring. Maybe we were spoilt for choice last year given the number of amazing performances in Rio; or maybe it just hasn’t been a vintage twelve months for British sport?
What I think is fantastic however, is the fact that a third of the nominees are female, there is a para-athlete on the list, and several “minority” sports are also represented.
Sadly, irrespective of how much they have accomplished, the likes of Elise Christie and Bianca Walkden cannot win the main prize, simply because there are higher-profile athletes whose names alone carry enough weight to pretty much guarantee a place in the top three. I’m not saying that’s right by the way…
The bookmakers rarely get things wrong, and Anthony Joshua is a massive odds-on favourite to lift the trophy, but my choice would be very different and even though my opinion is worth next to nothing, I’m going to give you my brief assessment (in reverse order) anyway.
12: Jonathan Rea
Apparently he’s a really good motorcycle racer, but I’ve never heard of him. Not his fault; I’m sure he’s a great bloke, but you can’t vote for someone you’ve never heard of.
11 Harry Kane
If he scores the goal that wins England the World Cup in Russia, then he would win next year’s trophy by a mile. He’s a tremendous striker, but he won’t score the winning goal in the World Cup final, because England will long since have been dumped out of the competition.
10: Johanna Konta
One of three overseas-born nominees on the list; she progressed all the way to the semi-final of Wimbledon, before realising that she was now British and promptly losing.
9: Chris Froome
Surely the best-ever Kenyan cyclist … but doesn’t inspire me at all.
8: Lewis Hamilton
Will surely finish in the top three, at which point I will question the definition of “personality”.
7: Elise Christie
It’s not the fact that she won a couple of short-track world titles that’s impressive; it’s the fact she was able to bounce back from a triple disqualification at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. To have that strength of character is so inspiring.
6: Jonnie Peacock
Seems a really decent bloke; he’s a fine athlete and real standard-bearer for disability sport. And the lad can dance too…
5: Bianca Walkden
Dual world champion who, along with Jade Jones, has undoubtedly raised the profile of taekwondo, Bianca has apparently lost just once since 2016 - a great record, although in fairness I haven’t lost a taekwondo contest ever. It’s also a little known fact that the sport was the inspiration for the song: “If you kick me in the head, that’s taekwondo kwondo kwondo…”
4: Anthony Joshua
He comes across really well outside the ring, he’s a really imposing physical specimen, and it will be interesting to watch how his career develops now that he holds two versions of the World Heavyweight title.
3: Mo Farah
Quite simply one of the world’s greatest-ever athletes; he also seems a genuinely personable man away from the track. To win the 10,000m gold at the World Championships despite falling twice just about summed up his incredible determination and resilience.
2: Adam Peaty
His achievements in the 50m and 100m breaststroke are truly staggering. He has the ten fastest recorded times in history over 100m and also broke the 50m world record twice … in a day. Even my six lengths award from 1972 pales in comparison.
1: Anya Shrubsole
The women’s World Cup cricket final produced arguably the year’s most enthralling sporting drama. In just 19 deliveries, Anya took five Indian wickets to turn almost certain defeat into a quite glorious victory; and proved (if any proof was needed) just how high the levels of skill and excitement are within elite women’s sport.