By Steven Downes
After a year in which he won his second Wimbledon championship, retained his Olympic title, became a father for the first time and achieved world No1 status, Andy Murray may not have needed any further plaudits. But this afternoon at The Pavilion at the Tower of London he received one, when Patrick Collins, the President of the Sports Journalists’ Association, named him as the 68th winner of the Association’s Sportsman of the Year award.
At the ceremony, sponsored by The National Lottery, Collins also announced Laura Kenny, Britain’s most successful woman Olympian of all time, as the 2016 Sportswoman of the Year, with Britain’s Rio gold medal-winning women’s hockey team as the Team of the Year.
The winners of the SJA’s British Sports Awards, which have a history stretching back to 1949, are chosen through a ballot of the Association’s 700-plus members, including many of the world’s leading sports writers, photographers and broadcasters.
Murray overwhelmingly topped the SJA members’ vote ahead of Olympic gold medallists, cyclist Jason Kenny and gymnast Max Whitlock.
It is the 29-year-old Scotsman’s third time as a winner at the SJA British Sports Awards: he was named Sportsman of the Year in 2013 and in 2015 he was part of the Team of the Year award for his exploits in the Davis Cup. Murray has been a regular among the contenders for Sportsman of the Year for a decade, since finishing runner-up to world champion boxer Joe Calzaghe in 2006.
He was unable to attend today’s lunch presentations, as he is in Miami in training for the 2017 season in his attempt to win even more titles. But he sent a message to the SJA audience in which he said: “Thank you very much for the Award and sorry I can’t be there today. I’m currently in Miami and although it’s nice and sunny, I am in a lot of pain right now getting ready for the new season!
“I appreciate all of the support you guys have given me over the years and it means a lot to win an award like this, especially in an Olympic year with so many other deserving athletes. There’s plenty for me to work on and improve, I’m looking forward to 2017 and beyond. I hope you all have a nice afternoon and a few glasses of wine. Merry Christmas, Andy.”
Laura Kenny is the first cyclist to win the Sportswoman of the Year awards since Victoria Pendleton in 2007.
Riding as Laura Trott, before her marriage to Jason Kenny which followed the Games, she won double Olympic gold in Rio, to add to her two gold medals at London 2012. In the SJA voting, she finished ahead of Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams and dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin.
The British women’s hockey team matched the achievement of the men’s Olympic gold medallists from 1988 in winning the SJA Team of the Year prize. They came out on top in the ballot of SJA members ahead of the England men’s rugby team, undefeated in 2016, and rowing’s coxless pair Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, who retained their title in the Olympic rowing regatta after an unbeaten run of 39 races over five years.
The SJA British Sports Awards are the oldest of their kind in the country.
Today’s gala awards lunch was attended by around 500 celebrity guests from sport and the media.
The National Lottery is in its fifth year of sponsoring the SJA awards event. The National Lottery plays a unique role in supporting the country’s elite athletes, with 700 Olympic and Paralympic medals having been won since Lottery funding was first awarded to elite athletes in 1997.
The National Lottery has also invested over £5 billion in grassroots sport to date, supporting more than 150 different sports and creating opportunities for everyone to get fit.
At today’s event, The National Lottery made its own Spirit of Sport Award to Britain’s most successful woman Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey.
The BT Sport JL Manning Award for services to sport went to Toni Minichiello, the coach to Jessica Ennis-Hill, the 2015 Sportswoman of the Year who announced her retirement from athletics following the Rio Olympics..
Maro Itoje, the Saracens and England forward, won the SJA Peter Wilson Trophy for best international newcomer.
And in a special presentation, SJA member Caroline Searle, a former British Olympic press officer and, until last month, the communications chief for British Rowing for more than a decade, was named the winner of the Doug Gardner Award, the Association’s highest honour, for services to sports journalism and the SJA. Searle is the first woman to receive the honour in the award’s 27-year history.
FULL LIST OF 2016 WINNERS
Sportsman of the Year
1, Andy Murray (Tennis)
2, Jason Kenny (Cycling)
3, Max Whitlock (Gymnastics)
4, Mo Farah (Athletics)
5, Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon)
6, Adam Peaty (Swimming)
7, Nick Skelton (Equestrianism)
8, Chris Froome (Cycling)
9, Lewis Hamilton (Motor racing)
10, Gordon Reid (Tennis)
Sportswoman of the Year
1, Laura Trott (Cycling)
2, Nicola Adams (Boxing)
3, Charlotte Dujardin (Equestrianism)
4, Sarah Storey (Cycling)
5, Maddie Hinch (Hockey)
6, Katherine Grainger (Rowing)
7, Johanna Konta (Tennis)
8, Kadeena Cox (Athletics/Cycling)
9, Jessica Ennis-Hill (Athletics)
10, Hannah Cockcroft (Athletics)
Team of the Year
1, Great Britain Women’s Hockey
2, England Men’s Rugby
3, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover (Rowing)
4, Wales Men’s Football
5, Great Britain Men’s Eight (Rowing)
6, Great Britain Men’s Sprint (Cycling)
7, Great Britain Men’s Four (Rowing)
8, Jack Laugher and Chris Mears (Diving)
9, Great Britain Women’s Team Pursuit (Cycling)
10, Great Britain Women’s 4x100m Relay (Athletics)
The National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award: Sarah Storey (Cycling)
SJA President’s Award: Helen Glover and Heather Stanning (Rowing)
BT Sport JL Manning Award for services off the field of play: Toni Minichiello (Athletics)
SJA Committee Award: Max Whitlock (Gymnastics)
SJA World Sport Achievement Award: Olympic and Paralympic Team GB
SJA Bill McGowran Trophy for achievement in Paralympic sport: Kadeena Cox (Cycling and Athletics) and Will Bayley (Table tennis)
SJA Peter Wilson Trophy for international newcomer: Maro Itoje (Rugby Union)
SJA Chairman’s Award: Jack Laugher and Chris Mears (Diving)
SJA Pat Besford Award for outstanding performance of the year: Women’s Pursuit Team (Cycling)
SJA Gold Medal for services to elite sport: Liz Nicholl
SJA Doug Gardner Award for services to sports journalism and the SJA: Caroline Searle