It is now December 2016 and in sporting terms that means that the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is almost upon us and this year it has an extended list of nominees. This is an event that I look forward to every year as a celebration of British sporting achievement and I always make sure that I cast my vote. Over the next two or three weeks just about everybody will have their say on who they think should win the main award and so why should it be any different here? Although current sporting affairs are not usually what are covered here at TSV, 2016 has been such a good year that it would be daft to ignore that.
A quick google search of something like 'SPOTY 2016' will throw up various columns from big newspapers and magazines about who should win and why. Of course everybody has an opinion and whether it is written online or spoken about at your place of work, the chances are you will engage in some kind of debate about who should win this year. I love a good debate about sport and so feel free to use the comments section to tell the world your opinion. I guess I should state where I stand on SPOTY 2016 right? Stand by for opinion, analysis and some assumptions....as usual.
I will come straight out and admit that, for me, Andy Murray has to win. Yes I am a big tennis fan but I promise this feeling is not based on any kind of bias. Murray won the award in 2015 following his Davis Cup exploits and 2016 has been a far better year for him. Critics will say that Djokovic has been poor, Federer is past it and Nadal is always injured but Murray can only beat what is put in front of him and in 2016, he usually has. The Scotsman has won SPOTY twice before and so whether you like him as a person or not, clearly the nation holds a lot of respect for what he does.
When you look at the 2016 achievements of Murray it just over shadows what anyone else has done. He won Wimbledon, retained his Olympic gold medal, reached the French Open final for the first time in his career and ended the year as world number one. If that isn't enough to convince you, there is even more. He was the runner up at the Australian Open and in 2016 became the only man ever to win a Grand Slam, the ATP Tour Finals, Olympics and a Masters 1000 tournament all in the same year. He even defeated Djokovic on clay for the first time in his career when he won the Rome Masters in May. Whether you think he is a bit boring on camera or not, Murray is arguably playing the best tennis of his career and deserves to win SPOTY in 2016 far more than he did in 2015.
Whilst the bookmakers seem to agree with myself and put Murray as the odds on favourite, there are other contenders. Alistair Brownlee is the second favourite and could be the runner up, although I am unsure as to whether he is any more deserving than some of the other nominees. He wasn't a nominee in 2012 following the London Olympics and so it is hard to know how popular a triathlete will be amongst voters. I have nothing against Brownlee but I do have my reasons for why he will not get my vote.
First and foremost, although retaining an Olympic title is an astounding achievement, he is not the only person who managed that in 2016. Nicola Adams, Mo Farah and many others including Jade Jones, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning also retained Olympic titles with the latter three not even being nominated here. Brownlee also did not have to worry about his main rival Javier Gomez in Rio, as he had to withdraw prior to the games. Retaining an Olympic title, in a year such as 2016, is just not enough. It has been an extraordinary year for British sport and so my winner needs to go above and beyond.
Speaking of above and beyond, how about retaining two Olympic titles? That is exactly what Mo Farah achieved in 2016 and so surely that puts him above Brownlee and Adams does it not? Yes Alistair Brownlee helped his brother over the finish line in a World Series event and no doubt that will secure him a few extra votes but Mo Farah won two gold medals in the space of seven days! Of course Farah has been nominated on three previous occasions and has never finished higher than fourth. Perhaps the public are not as crazy about long distance running as they are some other sports.
It is this unpopularity (or perhaps lack of media attention) of certain sports that I feel will be the demise of a number of nominees. Adam Peaty, the phenomenal swimmer that he is, usually only manages to secure around 1.5% of the vote. He won't win this year but it would be nice if his share of the vote could increase after coming home with a gold, silver and world record to his name.
This is also where the Paralympians will struggle as the Paralympics are not covered as widely by the media as the Olympics, meaning that some members of the public are unaware of their achievements. If any Paralympian was going to finish in the top three at SPOTY it was David Weir in 2012 after four gold medals and a London Marathon win but he was only voted into 5th place. Kadeena Cox holds the hugely impressive achievement of winning gold medals at the same Paralympics in totally different sports and I feel that Dame Sarah Storey would be better suited to a lifetime achievement award this time around for what she has done for British Paralympic sport.
Then there is the struggle of the team sport stars. Kate Richardson-Walsh is an outsider with the bookies and will likely struggle on the night. One thing that made the Hockey success so captivating was that is was clearly a team effort. There was no single star, it was a team of highly talented players who left everything they had on the pitch and displayed a never say die attitude. I feel that the British public will struggle to single out Richardson-Walsh as the one that deserves the award. Maddie Hinch was arguably the key player of a team that, in my opinion, should win the team of the year award as they are the living embodiment of everything that is positive about team sports.
We can also talk about the football nominees, but only quickly as I don't feel that either of them should be anywhere near the nominations list. Jamie Vardy, in 2016, was superb up until May and like Richardson-Walsh was just one piece of a huge team success story. He has been pretty ineffective so far this season and Leicester City actually now find themselves near the bottom of the Premier League rather than the top. Leicester City fans aside, I struggle to see who would vote for him and why.
Similar could be said for Gareth Bale. Yes he is a fantastic footballer but his 2016 achievements just do not come close to those of Murray, Cox, Farah and a couple of other guys I haven't even mentioned yet. He was a leading light for Wales in Euro 2016 but lets be honest, they didn't win anything did they? (bitter England fan talking here). His club, Real Madrid, although they won the Champions League, failed to win La Liga or the Copa del Rey and so it was actually quite a poor year for the club by their standards. The semi finals of Euro 2016 and a Champions League medal is not enough to win this award for Bale.
Max Whitlock on the other hand is a man who I feel has done enough to win this year but in all probability, he won't actually come that close. Two golds and a bronze in Rio was an outstanding accomplishment and the whole country got behind him in a big way. He became the first British gymnast to win an individual gold and two hours later went on to win his second. Great Britain have a superb gymnast in Whitlock and I really hope the public get behind him again when they cast their votes. I would be more than happy to see his name in the top three on the 18th December.
Nick Skelton is the nominee for 2016 that should receive the biggest applause of the night because his story is really quite amazing. At 58 years old, Skelton won an individual gold medal at Rio 2016 to add to his team gold from London 2012. As if being Olympic champion at 58 is not impressive enough for you, he recovered from a broken neck in 2000 and has also undergone a hip replacement. His body has been through the wars and yet he still managed to ride Big Star to victory to put the icing on a delightful career and prove that age is just a number.
Jason and Laura Kenny won even more gold medals in Rio to add to their ever growing collection. With Laura becoming Britain's most successful female Olympian ever she could well make the top three. My only fear for her would be that the cycling votes could be split between herself, her husband, Storey and Cox. Cyclists often do pretty well at SPOTY but in 2012 when three were nominated, Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Sarah Storey both struggled for votes as Sir Bradley Wiggins stormed to victory. If Jason Kenny were to finish higher than Laura Kenny, I would be somewhat surprised.
To touch on the other nominees I feel that Danny Willett, apart from winning the US Masters, actually had quite an average year and was very disappointing in the Ryder Cup. Sophie Christiansen, despite taking three gold medals at the 2016 Paralympics, will likely lose a lot of the Equestrian vote to Skelton whose age and previous injuries offer up a unique story. Finally Nicola Adams, who only had to win three fights to secure her gold medal in Rio, did go one better than in 2012 as she upgraded the silver that she won in the World Championships to a gold in 2016.
Some people will moan that Chris Froome missed out (how many cyclists do these people want on a list of 16?) or about the omittance of an England rugby player following their Six Nations success but the bar has been set particularly high in 2016. A gold medal is not enough to see you nominated this year as Giles Scott, Charlotte Dujardin, and many others will testify. Aside from the fact that I don't feel Vardy and Bale should be on the list, the nominations selected are probably correct in the 14 other instances. Andy Murray will surely win and I would be happy with any of Whitlock, Farah or Skelton taking second and third position. Murray may get my vote, but who will gets yours? Who will make up the top three and who has been overlooked in the nominations? Get involved, have your say and don't forget to watch the awards on the 18th December.
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