There are always a number of tell-tale signs that Christmas is on the way: songs on the radio, advent calendars and that Coca-Cola advert on television. Another is the annual back-slapping award ceremony of British sporting excellence that is BBC Sports Personality of the Year. So without further ado, here are the contenders.
Lizzie Armistead: Cycling
Britain has a great history of producing champion cyclists, and Lizzie Armistead is another who has found themselves on top of the world. In the best season of her career to date, the 26 year-old bounced back from a crash on the Women’s Tour to claim her third British National Road Race title just ten days later. In September she won the biggest prize of her life, gold at the UCI World Road Championship in a nail-biting finish, enshrining herself amongst Britain’s cycling heroes.
Lucy Bronze: Football
The Women’s World Cup in Vancouver was an unequivocal success for all involved, not least England’s Lucy Bronze. The England right back enjoyed a stellar tournament, finding the net twice, as the Lionesses advanced to the semi-finals and gained a plethora of new fans. Bronze was also shortlisted for the Golden Ball player of the tournament, an endorsement of the quality which she displayed for both club and country this year.
Jessica Ennis-Hill: Athletics
When most people have a child, they relax a little bit, maybe take some time off work before getting back into the thick of it. Jessica Ennis-Hill is not ‘most people’ however. The heptathlete was competing at her first major championship in three years, but still managed to pull out a shock win and claim her second World Championship title. Having only given birth to her son 13 months previously, there seems to be nothing that can slow her down.
Mo Farah: Athletics
2012 was always going to be a tough act to follow for the man who won the 5,000m and 10,000 gold medals at the Olympics, whilst simultaneously introducing us to the Mobot. But since then Mo Farah has continued to dominate on the track, with 2015 being no exception. Not only did he become the first man in history to complete at distance ‘triple-double’ of titles at the World Championships, he also broke the European half marathon record.
Chris Froome: Cycling
While Chris Froome may not be quite so adored as his compatriot Bradley Wiggins, it is not for lack of trying. Now a two-time Tour de France winner, Froome has entered rarefied company that only the best can claim to be a part of. Overcoming not only his opponents, but also questions as to the legitimacy of his performance, the 30 year-old has made the yellow jersey his own, and put British cycling as a benchmark for the sport.
Tyson Fury: Boxing
There’s no denying that Tyson Fury is a divisive figure. There’s also no denying that Tyson Fury is one hell of a boxer. The Manchester fighter extended his undefeated record against his more fearsome opposition to date. In defeating Wladamir Klitschko, Fury not only ended the Ukrainian’s 11 year dominance, but also became Britain’s first world heavyweight world champion in six years, proving that not only can he talk the talk, but can most definitely walk the walk too.
Lewis Hamilton: Formula One
It all seemed a bit too easy for Lewis Hamilton at certain points of the season. Such was his domination of the rest of the field that instances in which the Briton wasn’t first to reach the chequered flag became more newsworthy than him winning. Locking up a third world title, Hamilton equalled that of his hero Aryton Senna, and became only the second British driver to do so. At only 30, Hamilton is far from done with winning.
Andy Murray: Tennis
To the casual fan, it may seem that Andy Murray’s 2015 was a bit of a let-down, but that is far the reality. After a disappointing 2014, the Scot bounced back, reaching the Australian Open Final for a fourth time, before capturing four titles and finishing the year as world number two: the first time he has achieved this. The crowning glory came in November, when he near singlehandedly helped Great Britain win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936, cementing his place in the pantheon of British sporting heroes.
Adam Peaty: Swimming
Quite possibly Britain’s greatest male swimming talent in for a generation. Adam Peaty has burst onto the international stage with aplomb. After claiming gold in the 100m breaststroke at the World Swimming Championships, he added the 50m equivalent to become the first double winner of these events. Furthermore, he was part of the British team that broke the mixed 4x100m relay world record. Not bad for a 20 year-old.
Greg Rutherford: Athletics
Greg Rutherford is the reigning Olympic, European, World and Commonwealth champion, and yet his name is rarely brought up when discussing Britain’s finest athletes. Only four other Britons have ever held all four titles at the same time, with Rutherford the latest to add his name to this select group in 2015 when he captured world championship gold. Perhaps this latest achievement can propel him to a high level.
Kevin Sinfield: Rugby League
Like all great sports stars, Kevin Sinfield knew exactly how to go out on a high. For him it was following Leeds Rhino’s victory in the Super League Grand Final that gave them the treble. Having spent his entire career with the Rhino’s, Sinfield has also played a starring role for England and became just the fourth player in rugby league to pass 4,000 career points. But he isn’t stopping there, joining rugby union side Yorkshire Carnegie for their next campaign.
Max Whitlock: Gymnastics
British gymnastics definitely seems to be on the up, with a collective crop of shining young talents. Among them is 22 year-old Max Whitlock, who bagged the gold medal in the pommel horse at the World Championships in Glasgow: the first time a British man had ever topped the podium. Whilst also collecting silver medals in the team events and the floor exercise, Whitlock has put a huge spring in the step of British gymnastics.
Once again then, Sports Personality has given us a veritable plethora of sporting goodness to feast upon. It’s a tough one to call, though Mo Farah, Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton and Chris Froome probably lead the way when it comes to early favourites for the public vote. Having said that, Greg Rutherford is perhaps an underrated contender given his array of titles, while Jessica Ennis-Hill is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most universally adored athletes. At the end of the day, it should be a cracking show. And if that doesn’t excite you then you can at least console yourself with the fact that Christmas is just round the corner.
Photo courtesy of James Elliman