November 29, 2010 1 Comment
Earlier this evening, the BBC announced its final shortlist of ten candidates for the 2010 Sports Personality of the Year (SPotY) awards, which will take place on December 19th at the LG Arena in Birmingham. While each of the ten nominees – determined by the votes of a panel of 30 sports journalists – is merit-worthy in their own right, there was one notable absentee from the list: triple world gymnastics champion Beth Tweddle.
When I previewed the likely top ten four weeks ago, based on the odds quoted by Ladbrokes at that time, the bookmaker had correctly predicted eight of the shortlist of ten. In alphabetical order, here is the final confirmed list, along with my thoughts as to their chances of winning:
Mark Cavendish (cycling)
Winner of five stages at July’s Tour de France, and a further three stages and the green jersey in his debut at the Vuelta a España in September. Unquestionably the world’s best sprinter for the third year in a row – and this in a year where he has at times struggled for peak form. In four years as a pro, the rider from the Isle of Man has already won an astonishing 23 stages in the three Grand Tours – including 15 at the Tour de France – not to mention the 2009 Milan-San Remo, one of the most prestigious one-day classics on the cycling calendar. ‘Cav’ is quite simply the best in the world at what he does.
SPotY prospects: None. Road cycling is a minority and poorly understood sport in the UK, and one which the ordinary sports fan most readily relates with doping scandals. There will be a big voting campaign among cycling fans. It will make no difference whatsoever – Cavendish will probably finish tenth.
Previous cycling SPotY winners: 2 – Tom Simpson (1965), Chris Hoy (2008).
Tom Daley (diving)
Still only 16, Daley bagged double Commonwealth Games gold in the 10m platform individual and synchronised diving competitions, after injury denied him the chance to defend his European title.
SPotY prospects: Minimal. Daley competes in a niche event, and will never make the top three in a non-Olympics year.
Previous swimming/diving SPotY winners: 2 – Ian Black (1958), Anita Lonsbrough (1962).
Jessica Ennis (athletics)
Followed up last year’s World Athletics Championships heptathlon victory with gold medals in both the World Indoor Championships pentathlon and the European Championships heptathlon. She remains the world’s number one-ranked heptathlete.
SPotY prospects: Top three. The current golden girl of British athletics, and the country’s only number-one ranked athlete in either male or female events.
Previous athletics SPotY winners: 17 – most recently Kelly Holmes (2004) and Paula Radcliffe (2002).
David Haye (boxing)
Haye became only the fifth British boxer to hold a world heavyweight belt after beating the giant Nikolay Valuev twelve months ago. Since then the 30-year old has made two successful defences of his WBA heavyweight title, defeating the credible challenge of John Ruiz in April and then the somewhat less credible Audley Harrison a fortnight ago.
SPotY prospects: An outside bet for the top three. Boxing currently lacks the high profile and strength in depth of the Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield eras, but Haye’s win over Harrison is timely in terms of the public vote.
Previous boxing SPotY winners: 5 – most recently Joe Calzaghe (2007) and Lennox Lewis (1999).
A P McCoy (horse racing)
Tony McCoy has been the dominant force in National Hunt racing for the past 15 years, and the best jump jockey in the business finally won the Grand National in 2010, at his 15th attempt, piloting Don’t Push It to a five-length victory.
SPotY prospects: Favourite to win. McCoy is a dominant, likeable figure, and his maiden Grand National win should ensure a further triumph in the SPotY arena.
Previous horse racing SPotY winners: 0, but two third places – one of them McCoy himself in 2002.
Graeme McDowell (golf)
The 31-year old from Northern Ireland finished second overall on the European Tour money list, won his first major, the US Open, and held his nerve to win the critical final singles match in the Ryder Cup, securing the trophy for Europe by the narrowest of margins, 14½-13½.
SPotY prospects: Possible top three. McDowell has had a fairy-tale year, and the likelihood of the European Ryder Cup squad winning the Team of the Year award may attract floating public voters on the night. Lee Westwood‘s presence in the top ten may take vital votes away, however.
Previous golf SPotY winners: 2 – Dai Rees (1957), Nick Faldo (1989).
53 wickets in 11 Tests this calendar year, including five five-fors, cementing his position as England’s primary bowling threat. Also named the ECB Cricketer of the Year, and nominated as one of Wisden‘s five Cricketers of the Year.
SPotY prospects: An outside bet for the top three. Swann is England’s main bowling weapon, and strong performances in the second and third Tests could propel him to the sharp end of the public vote.
Previous cricket SPotY winners: 4 – Jim Laker (1956), David Steele (1975), Ian Botham (1981), Andrew Flintoff (2005).
Phil Taylor (darts)
The undisputed king of the oche for the best part of two decades, Taylor won his 15th World Championship and 11th World Matchplay title in 2010, among others. Incredibly, he has only been nominated for the main SPotY award once before (2006).
SPotY prospects: Minimal. Despite his incredible dominance of the sport, too many viewers will never vote for a darts player. It will be a miracle if Taylor gets anywhere near the top three, and he is more likely to be joining Cavendish at the bottom of the public vote.
Previous darts SPotY winners: 0 (and no top three placings either).
Lee Westwood (golf)
The new world number one was runner-up in both the US Masters and The Open, and contributed 2½ points from his four matches as Europe regained the Ryder Cup.
SPotY prospects: An outside bet for the top three. A failure to win a major and the presence of McDowell in the field means Westwood is unlikely to manage better than a top five placing.
Previous golf SPotY winners: 2 - Dai Rees (1957), Nick Faldo (1989).
Amy Williams (skeleton bobsleigh)
Gold medalist in the skeleton bobsleigh at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, going one place better than Shelley Rudman had four years previously in Turin.
SPotY prospects: None. The Winter Olympics stand several rungs down from its summer counterpart, and are already a distant and fading memory. Many viewers will have already forgotten her name, let alone be willing to cast a vote for her.
Previous Winter Olympics SPotY winners: 3 (all skaters) – John Curry (1976), Robin Cousins (1980), Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean (1984).
Finally, do spare a thought for the unfortunate Beth Tweddle, who won her third gold medal at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Rotterdam in October with a flawless performance on the uneven bars, having triumphed in the same event in 2006 and on the floor last year. She also repeated her double gold performance at the European Championships in Birmingham earlier in the year, duplicating her 2009 wins in the uneven bars and the floor.
The 25-year old previously placed third in the SPotY voting in 2006 behind winner Zara Phillips and Darren Clarke. She is Britain’s only ever gymnastics world champion. Her exclusion from the shortlist is, to me, incomprehensible. It’s a real shame, because none of the final ten, for all their achievements, have been quite the trailblazer that Tweddle has been in her sport.
I fully expect McCoy to canter to victory on December 19th, to be followed home by Ennis and McDowell. But in Tweddle’s absence, I will be casting my vote – albeit largely a protest one – for Mark Cavendish. So there.