2014 is looming large on the horizon, a year set to be dominated by England’s inevitable demise at the World Cup on penalties, by Usain Bolt running quickly and earning lots of money for his ability to do it well, and by Mo Farah somehow not running a sub two hour London Marathon at his first attempt.
Below are a combination of my personal top 10 and what I think will actually happen on the night, whether to my liking or not.
Please note that these views are 100% my own and are in no way directly related or attributable to the BBC.
10. Laura Trott
Following 2 gold medals at an Olympic Games is always going to be an unenviable task. How to stay motivated? How to keep beating a more motivated opposition? How to remove the inevitable distractions from sponsors and the media? Aged just 21, Trott is a pioneer in a fast moving sport, paving a trail for others to follow. Adding a World Championship Gold, 2 European Golds and 2 World Cup Golds to her bulging collection, Trott also became a British champion in 4 different disciplines. Yet it’s her solitary success on the road, at the RideLondon Grand Prix in August, that truly showcases her immense versatility as she headed Britain’s Wiggle-Honda in 2013 for the first time.
9. Leigh Halfpenny
In a year where the British and Irish Lions roared past Australia, it would be unjust not to include a Lion on the shortlist. In addition to yet another Six Nations title, sealed with large thanks to 12 points from his boot in the decider against England, Halfpenny smashed all records en route to a famous series win down under. Man-of-the-Series, he contributed 49 points in the series (a record), 21 points in a single test (a record) and converted 40 of his 45 attempts at goal (bloody incredible). Neither the touchline nor the halfway line proved too tricky for the 24-year-old, whose ball handling and composure from full-back added to one of the most complete displays in a red shirt in living memory.
8. Sir Ben Ainslie
His longevity and success over 5 Olympics mark Ben Ainslie out as a true legend in the sport of Sailing. Like Wiggins and Cavendish have in Cycling, and the Brownlee brothers have with Triathlon, Ainslie has almost single handedly brought the sport into not only the consciousness, but also the hearts of the British public. Yet the America’s Cup was always a competition we never really cared about. Until 2013 that is. Sir Ben, competing in the competition for the first time, transformed the fortunes of Oracle Team USA. From the brink of a crushing defeat to a majestic victory over Team New Zealand off the shores of San Francisco, Ainslie’s tactical expertise propelled his team to glory. Without him – and we’d probably still not really care about it.
7. AP McCoy
Richard Dunwoody and Peter Scudamore are revered as ‘greats’ in jump racing circles. Ammassing a staggering 3,566 wins between them, they dominated the sport during their time. AP McCoy, who somewhere along the line stopped being called Tony, has now more titles than the pair put together. Whilst the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award is not recognition of a lifetime’s work (though don’t tell that to Ryan Giggs), McCoy’s achievements deserve immense praise. An 18-time champion, McCoy’s victories in 2013 are double that of his nearest domestic rival. The formidable relationship with JP McManus could get him on further shortlists for years to come.
6. Justin Rose
From 1999 to 2010, the UK couldn’t buy one of golf’s majors. Obscure names like Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem and Lucas Glover all triumphed yet despite dominating tournaments across the globe, a major provided an insurmountable obstacle. Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke provided joy for Northern Ireland but Rose’s emotional triumph at the formidable Merion course resonated not just in England, but across the globe. Announcing himself on the scene 2 years after England’s last major winner in 1998, Rose has steadily risen the ranks to join golf’s elite. The composure under intense pressure in the final round was that of a seasoned major winner, not one of a South-African born Englishman carrying a nation’s hopes on his shoulders. A look to the heavens in memory of his late father gave golf a humble, personable champion.
5. Ian Bell
Surprising in a Ashes winning summer that a cricketer should be so far down the list but given the lack of real quality in the contest, Bell’s consistent performances saw him emerge from the shadows and the question marks that shrouded his entire career. With graceful technique and gritty resolve, Bell’s 3 centuries and 562 runs underpinned England’s success against Australia, when other members of the top order showed only occasional promise. Dubbed the Shermanator in 2005 and ridiculed by the Aussies, Bell offered the perfect repost but bolstering a shaky middle order from Trent Bridge to Chester-le-Street. A nod too to Graeme Swann – but the pitches were tailor made for to suit his strengths.
4. Non Stamford
Triathlon has come a long way in recent years, thanks largely to the Brownlees, but with neither claiming the World crown, it was left to the Welsh wonder to conquer the world. Female triathlete World Champions are nothing new. Chrissie Wellington and Leanda Cave have Ironman pedigree. But Stamford’s success in the shorter Olympic distance over the course of 2013 has been remarkable. At just 24, in her first full season at the Elite level, she conquered Madrid and won the ITU World Series, culminating in a breathtaking display in London. Obliterating the field during a mesmerising run that took in a 15-second penalty to boot, Stamford is an Olympic champion in waiting.
3. Chris Froome
In 98 runnings of the Tour de France, a Briton had never worn Le Maillot Jaune in Paris. In the 100th, Chris Froome became the second. Over a course designed by the commisseurs to take in the toughest ascents in its history, Froome, helped largely by his Team Sky Procycling teammates, was imperious for all but one of them. Untouchable in the mountains, Froome was clinical in the time trials and polite, courteous and firm from the constant press haranguing over his ability to win by such a margin without using drugs. He lacks Sir Bradley Wiggins’ ‘personality’ and novelty of a first time British winner, but Froome’s triumph on two wheels is arguably more impressive than Wiggins’ because he, like Farah, was left isolated to fight himself for large parts of the race. He didn’t have himself to pace him up the hills!
2. Mo Farah
Mo against the World. That Farah became only the second man in history to complete the 5000m/10,000m Olympic/World double is impressive. The fact he did it almost single handedly, unable to benefit from pacemaking teammates and as the man who had a target on his back made it all the more special. His move to work under Alberto Salazar in Oregon has been a masterstroke, rehoming his family having sacrificed them for Olympic Gold. In 2013, he proved that he didn’t need a home crowd to spur him on. Wherever, whenever, he could take on the world’s best and beat them. Put simply – Farah is the greatest British distance runner of our generation and 2013 may be the last of its kind for him on the track.
1. Andy Murray
It was a statistic that was wearing thin. Saying Fred Perry’s name became more fashionable than the clothing range named after him. The glare of a nation is rarely more intense than for 2 weeks in June at SW19, and under the weight of extraordinary expectation, the Scot became Wimbledon champion and in so doing ended 77 years of hurt. Throw in 3 other ranking titles too, 2013 was another major milestone in Murray’s career. As Federer’s dominances has wained, Murray has taken on the mantle to be comfortably the third best in the world. From the tears of another Australian Open final to tears of a a happier kind on Centre Court, 2013 earmarked the year we actually saw Andy’s personality shine through. He smiled!
A few other names worth a mention that haven’t made my shortlist are Christine Ohuroghu, Carl Froch, Tai Woffinden, Heather Knight, Jonathan Brownlee, Shelley Rudman and Phil Taylor. All worthy of a spot in the top 10.
For what it’s worth, my tip for some of the other awards:
Overseas: Rafa Nadal (pipping Sebastian Vettel, Tirunesh Dibaba & Usain Bolt)
Team of the Year: British & Irish Lions (pipping England’s men’s cricketers & England netball)
Coach of the Year: Warren Gatland
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sir Alex Ferguson
Please let me know your top 10 too. Be great to hear your thoughts. Drop me a tweet @BenCCroucher.
Monday, 11th November 2013