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The real sports personality of the year

Written by Sport, Sport Features

Putting our own Sports Personality of the Year aside, we look at the nominees for the BBC’s prestigious award.

Nicola Adams

34-year-old Nicola Adams has had quite the year. At Rio the boxer defended with a win over France’s Sarah Ourahmoun.

In doing so, Adams became the first British boxer to retain an Olympic crown since Harry Mallin in 1924. She also added to her medal haul by winning her first World Championship this year to complete the “grand slam” of medals when her Commonwealth title from 2014 is added.

“Adams is a strong representative of the LGBT community”

Aside her sporting achievements she has a number of accolades to her name. In 2012 she became the first ever female boxer to receive an award from the Boxer’s Writing Club of Great Britain, she received an MBE in 2013 and completed her Doctor of Laws at the University of Leeds last year. Furthermore, Adams is a strong representative of the LGBT community and was named the most influential LGBT person in Britain by The Independent in 2012.

Toby Bryant

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale was at his dazzling best in 2016, for both club and country. Undoubtedly Britain’s most talented footballer, it seems that he has once more gone up a level this year.

After being pivotal in securing Real Madrid’s tenth Champions League title in 2014, Bale repeated the trick this year, assisting Sergio Ramos’ goal and scoring in the penalty shootout. He has 18 goals in 33 appearances for Los Blancos in 2016 and his responsibility in the side continues to grow as Cristiano Ronaldo begins to slow down and adapt his own style of play.

“A Welsh icon and one of football’s giants”

In March, Bale surpassed Gary Lineker as the highest scoring Briton in La Liga, but it was at Euro 2016 where the former Tottenham star shone brightest. Bale had almost single-handedly taken Wales to the tournament and he inspired again in France. The 27 year-old scored three goals for his country, leading them all the way to the semi-finals – their greatest ever achievement.

A Welsh icon and one of football’s giants, Bale has every right to his place on the shortlist.

James Harris

Alistair Brownlee

Alistair Brownlee’s year has consisted of great triumph as well as enthralling drama. The decorated British triathlete has had a wealth of past successes, having earned 14 gold medals across all competitions. Most notably of all his victory in the London 2012 Olympics.

This year, Brownlee took home another triathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This was the only occasion in the history of British athletics, that a triathlete has won consecutive gold medals in the Olympic Games. Brownlee performed so well in Rio, that his brother and rival Jonathan joked that “maybe in four years he’ll be older, slower and greyer”, in light of consistently placing after his brother.

“This was the only occasion in the history of British athletics, that a triathlete has won consecutive gold medals in the Olympic Games”

Also, who could forget when Brownlee assisted his dazed, heat-stricken brother over the line in the World Triathlon Series final in Mexico? The viral spectacle was adored by both the public and the sporting community. Brownlee gave up a gold medal to help his brother finish the race, placing Jonathan second, and himself third.

Harry Webb

Sophie Christiansen

The 29-year old English equestrian has had a great 2016. This year in Rio she matched her record from London 2012, with golds in the Freestyle, Championship and the Team Championship aboard her beloved horse Athena.

“Her talent and determination make her a strong contender”

In 2016 she has also not finished lower than second in any FEI event in which she competed. Furthermore she now works two days a week as a statistical analyst for Goldman Sachs to have “something else to think about”

While she is one of less known nominees on the list her talent and determination make her a strong contender.

Tom Shrimplin

Kadeena Cox

Kadeena Cox was one of Great Britain’s Paralympics stars picking up four medals across cycling and athletics with  Gold medals in both sports. This makes her the first British Paralympian to win gold medals in multiple sports at the same games since Isabel Barr at the 1984 Summer Paralympics.

Kadeena was able-bodied until 2014 when she suffered a stroke and a few months later she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She turned her attention to the Paralympics and despite being reclassified in both events in the run up to the games she still managed to come away with two gold medals in the C4-5 cycling women’s 500m time trial and the T38 athletics 400m.

“The first British Paralympian to win gold medals in multiple sports at the same games since Isabel Barr”

Kadeena’s achievements are something few Paralympics athletes making her a stand out performer in this year’s British Paralympics squad.

Tom Cox

Mo Farah

In 2016, Mo Farah solidified his place as a long distance running legend. Britain’s greatest track athlete of all time is nominated for a fifth time this year, having finished third, fourth (twice) and seventh in the past.

In truth, it seems astonishing that Farah hasn’t taken the big prize yet, but his success has coincided with arguably Britain’s richest sporting years since the competition began in 1954.

“The top prize may be just out of reach once again for Farah”

This year, the 33 year-old accomplished his most impressive feat to date – the ‘double double’. Farah became only the second man to retain the Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m titles. The difficulty of this achievement must not be underestimated. Not even the likes of Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele managed to defend both titles.

Farah also broke a 34 year-old 3000m British record and won the Great North Run for the third consecutive year. A career of astounding achievement deserves recognition, but the top prize may be just out of reach once again for Farah.

James Harris

Jason Kenny

The Farnworth Flame, undoubtedly had the greatest year of his career and life in 2016. Winning 3 Olympic gold medals in Rio’s velodrome, becoming the joint highest holder of gold medals in team GB history, and finally getting married to fellow cyclist Laura Trott.

“Now undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest ever Olympians”

Kenny’s glorious summer began with leading the British team to the Men’s team sprint gold for a third successive Games. He then won the 5th Olympic gold of his career, defeating fellow Brit Callum Skinner in the individual sprint final, before ending his Rio campaign with a dramatic victory in the keirin event. One of the most memorable moments of the games followed, seeing him celebrate with then fiancé Trott after the medal ceremony.

Now undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest ever Olympians, if Kenny does lift the SPOTY trophy on December 18th it will simply cap-off, what has already been an incredible year for him.

Jack Lacey-Hatton

Laura Kenny

Laura Kenny (you might know her better as Trott) was one of the highlights of Great Britain’s most successful Olympics since 1908. Kenny contributed 2 gold medals to GB’s haul of 27, that’s 7.4% and along with her team mates broke the team pursuit world record multiple times in the process.

Her most recent Olympic success combined with her achievements in 2012 make her Great Britian’s most successful female Olympian in any sport. Looking past her status as a woman Laura is the 9th most successful Olympian overall.

“Winning Sports Personality of the Year is probably at the back of her mind, making it all the more deserved”

Almost overnight Laura became one of the most recognisable cycling stars, inspiring girls everywhere to start plaiting their hair and get on their bikes.

Combine all this with organising a wedding to the joint most successful British Olympian of all time and Laura’s not had a bad year. Winning Sports Personality of the Year is probably at the back of her mind, making it all the more deserved.

Sophie Chapman

Andy Murray

He may have twice been awarded Sports Personality of the Year, but if there were ever a time Murray deserved it most, it would have to be 2016.

Not only did he maintain his Olympic title at Rio, but this win also crowned him the world’s first ever singles player with two Olympic golds. And don’t forget his second Wimbledon victory: the most of any British player since 1935.

“The year has proven beyond a doubt that Murray is the best British tennis player of all time”

Indeed, despite falling to world number 3 at the Madrid Open, Murray powered on to become the first ever British world number 1 by reaching and then winning the finals at the Paris Masters.

The icing on the cake was his straight-set win against Djokovic at the World Tour Finals, confirming his ATP standing for 2016. The year has proven beyond a doubt that Murray is the best British tennis player of all time. Let’s award him for it!

Lily Earnshaw

Adam Peaty

It’s the third time that swimmer Adam Peaty, a golden boy of the Rio Olympics has been nominated for  Sports Personality of the Year.

The breaststroker continued his dominance in the pool at 100 metres, even breaking his own world record with a time of 57.13 in the final. It wasn’t just his emphatic victory that makes him a serious contender for the SPOTY crown, but how he gained that Olympic gold.

“Can the boy from Uttoxeter add 2016 SPOTY to his impressive résumé, too?”

Peaty finished 1.56 seconds in front of second-place Cameron van der Burgh, the largest margin recorded in sprint racing since 1972. The victory also meant that the City of Derby swimmer became Britain’s first male Olympic swimming champion for 28 years.

This year he has already won FINA’s Olympic Performance of the Year and European Male Swimmer of the Year, but can the boy from Uttoxeter add 2016 SPOTY to his impressive résumé, too?

Anna Woodberry

Kate Richardson-Walsh

Though the name Kate Richardson-Walsh may be new to many people, this has hardly been a breakthrough year for the former captain of Great Britain and England. At the age of 36, Richardson-Walsh is nearing the end of a fantastic career.

Having made her international debut in 1999, the Mancunian won her first medal in the impressive England side that took silver at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, taking a further silver and two bronzes in the next three Games, as well as battling through a broken jaw to win the bronze in London four years ago, GB women’s first ever Olympic medal.

“She is one half of the first same-sex married couple to win Olympic medals”

After becoming the most capped female in Great Britain in February and an MBE in 2015, Richardson-Walsh made history. Not only was Richardson-Walsh the captain of the first GB women’s team to take gold in then hockey, but she is one half of the first same-sex married couple to win Olympic medals.

She retired in August after 375 games, 49 goals and 19 medals. A true sporting legend.

James Sproston

Nicholas Skelton

Nicholas Skelton is a British horse rider whose riding career began at the tender age of 18 months old, and led to him becoming the world record holder for the British Show Jumping High Jump record at a whopping 2.32m high, which he set in 1978.

“Making him the second oldest athlete to be crowned an Olympic champion”

It’s certainly easy to see why Skelton has been hailed as a sporting inspiration and has therefore been nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award when, after breaking his neck in 2000, he recovered and went on to win 2 Olympic gold medals. One of his Olympic golds was down to his outstanding individual performance at the 2016 Rio Olympic games making him the second oldest athlete to be crowned an Olympic champion.

In addition to his Olympic successes, Skelton holds several other accolades- including his medals won at both the European Show Jumping Championships and the World Show Jumping Championships, and his appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2012 for his services to equestrian sport.

Emma Bancroft

Sarah Storey

Sarah Storey is a British road and track-racing cyclist who has been short-listed for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award after becoming known as one of the most successful paralympians of her time. Storey – a former swimmer – was awarded DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) following the 2012 London Olympic games.

“She holds several impressive titles, such as being a 27-time World champion, a 21-time European champion and the holder of an astonishing 72 world records”

Although Storey has competed in able-bodied Olympic events, she is primarily known for her contribution to the Paralympic games – both for swimming and cycling – after she was born without a functioning left hand following difficulties during her mother’s pregnancy.

She holds several impressive titles, such as being a 27-time World champion, a 21-time European champion and the holder of an astonishing 72 world records. In addition, she has brought home a whopping 14 gold medals for team GB, certainly an remarkable role model and worthy contender for the award.

Emma Bancroft

Jamie Vardy

No-one encapsulates Leicester’s meteoric rise like Jamie Vardy. As recently as 2012, he was playing in the Conference with Fleetwood, but helped Leicester to promotion, survival and become champions. His 24 goals this season fuelled victories, but he contributed more than that.

“Neutrals adored him for it, cheering him on for England in Euro qualifiers”

He became the club’s talisman, personifying their image as underdogs.  Neutrals adored him for it, cheering him on for England in Euro qualifiers. He scored braces in vital wins against Liverpool, Sunderland and Everton, but he fulfilled the less glamorous side too.

The constant sight of him galloping upon defenders to chase lost balls, busting a gut for his teammates and being deservedly rewarded, epitomises the nature of British sport.

Benjamin Eckford

Max Whitlock

Gymnastics has always been a sore subject for Great Britain. No British gymnast had ever taken home a gold medal in artistic gymnastics until Max Whitlock. But he didn’t stop at one.

Whitlock won three medals in Rio, a bronze in the all-round gymnastics event and two golds in Men’s Floor and Men’s Pommel Horse, propelling himself to become Great Britain’s most successful gymnast ever and the first Olympic champion in gymnastics.

“Whitlock has also worked with Children in Need and visits schools inspiring the next generation to get involved in gymnastics”

10.4 million people tuned into the BBC’s coverage to see Max receive his second gold medal. Not only was his performance in the event outstanding, the way he handled the awkward encounter with Louis Smith, crying over his silver on the podium, shows he has the grace of a deserved winner.

Whitlock has also worked with Children in Need and visits schools inspiring the next generation to get involved in gymnastics. He was recently voted Best British Sports Star at the Radio One Teen Awards although winning Sports Personality of the Year would probably top that.

Sophie Chapman

Danny Willett

Danny Willett enjoyed his greatest successes in 2016. The British-born golfer has had a long climb to the top of the sport, from “playing par three courses in a sheep field” as a child, to becoming the number one ranked amateur in the world at 20, before going pro a few months later. Now, at 29 he has his first Masters victory under his belt.

Willett enjoyed his fourth European Tour win at the Dubai Desert Classic, came second in the 2016 Italian Open, third in the BMW PGA Championship, and third in the Ryder Cup world point list scoring 271.99. Willet has been massively successful this season, well deserving of his eleventh place in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“Now, at 29 he has his first Masters victory under his belt”

Willett’s Masters victory is of course his greatest, most extraordinary achievement. Willet finished three strokes ahead of runners-up Lee Westwood and defending champion Jordan Spieth. In doing so, Willet became only the second Englishman to win a Masters, after Nick Faldo who won in 1989, 1990 and 1996.

Harry Webb

Last modified: 12th December 2016

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