Hamilton, Doyle and Liverpool FC big winners at SJA British Sports Awards

The Sports Journalists’ Association are delighted to announce the winners of their British Sports Awards, sponsored by the National Lottery. Usually a gala event in central London, this year the awards were held via a virtual ceremony, hosted by Jim Rosenthal.

Lewis Hamilton, seven-time Formula 1 world champion, record-breaking jockey Hollie Doyle and Premier League champions Liverpool FC are winners of the Sports Journalists’ Association Sportsman, Sportswoman and Sports Team of the Year. The awards are voted for by SJA members.

SJA President Patrick Collins posthumously chose London Marathon co-founder Chris Brasher for his personal award. 

The SJA Bill McGowran Trophy for male and female para athletes of the year was awarded to Sarah Storey, winner of three golds at the 2020 track cycling world championships, and Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, wheelchair tennis doubles partnership, who completed the career grand slam with victory at the French Open.

The National Lottery gave their Spirit of Sport award to Kim Daybell, Polly Swann and Vicky Wright, who all stepped away from sport this year to serve on the frontline of the NHS during the coronavirus crisis.

SJA Chair Ashley Broadley said: “When the first lockdown was announced in March we did wonder how we would come to select our outstanding sports competitors of this traumatic year. But as time progressed the talent, tenacity and flair of some brilliant sportsmen, women and teams came to the fore and we’re delighted to salute them now.”

The awards show includes interviews with the winners, including the SJA Sport for Social Change quartet Marcus Rashford, MBE, Lou Macari, Ebony Rainford-Brent and the Dons Local Action Group (formed by AFC Wimbledon supporters) which were announced two weeks ago.

Individual award interviews available to view and download via the below links. If footage used please reference the Sports Journalists’ Association and the British Sports Awards. The social media hashtags for the awards are #SJA2020 and #BritishSportsAwards.

Sportsman of the Year: Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton set the pace on the track in irresistible style. He equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of being crowned world champion seven times and continues his pioneering work off the track by leading the F1 Black Lives Matter campaign around the world’s Grand Prix circuits.

One SJA member commented: “On the track, he made history by surpassing Schumacher’s all-time record for race victories while off it he has become a leading, and inspirational, voice in the fight against racism.”

Runner-up:  Marcus Rashford

Rashford’s campaign to raise money to feed hungry young children around our nation became a cause celebre, saw him awarded an MBE and forced the Government into two embarrassing U-turns. He has also produced some tidy displays for Manchester United and England.

One SJA member who voted for Marcus said: “He added to his stellar performances on the field with a remarkable campaign that forced the Government into action. He proved that sportspeople have a life and a conscience beyond the field of play.”

Tied third: Tyson Fury and Tao Geoghegan Hart

Sportswoman of the Year: Hollie Doyle

The belief in Hollie Doyle’s talent has been growing inexorably in recent times. This year her claim to fame became irresistible. By riding five winners on one unforgettable afternoon at Windsor she created history as the first female jockey to achieve that feat.

One of her supporters in our voting pointed out: “She’s excelling in one of the few sports where men and women compete on an equal basis – and in a sport where you need to be as strong as your male rivals, too.”

On winning the award Doyle said: “I’m really privileged to have won this, just looking at some of the names on the trophy; Jessica Ennis-Hill, Paula Radcliffe. It’s a big honour for me to have won.”

When asked about being a female jockey and if she feels she has to work harder to be accepted she said: “I’ve never felt like I have not been accepted in this industry at all to be honest, I think it is just the fact there aren’t as many females wanting to be jockeys as there are males. Doors are opening and things are changing, and they are going in the right direction so that’s great.”

Runner-up: Lizzie Deignan

Cycling authorities have battled to keep their show on the road despite Covid-19. The indefatigable Lizzie has responded in emphatic style to end up crowned as the overall Women’s Tour Champion.

One of her SJA supporters pointed out: “A consistently outstanding rider whose season included winning La Course by Le Tour de France, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a third GP de Plouay title. Delighted she is postponing retirement till after Tokyo 2020.”

Third: Laura Muir

Team of the Year: Liverpool FC

The wait was long and, at times, very painful, but there was no denying the acclaim Liverpool deserved for winning the Premier League title.

It was 30 years since the once all-conquering Reds had been kings of English football. They won the 2019-20 title with a brand of high tempo, exciting football that left rivals in their wake. Jurgen Klopp’s team were so good that they merited comparison with the great Liverpool teams of the past – and that’s some achievement.

Accepting the award on the behalf of the team Jürgen Klopp said: “Thank you very much, I sit here on behalf of my team in many ways, it was a pretty exceptional season and an exceptional year, its an award for my team and I think they really deserved it.”

When asked what was exceptional about the team Klopp said: “We only have 10 minutes so I am not sure that is enough time. The way they deal with everything makes them so exceptional, not accepting set-backs, fighting back in each situation when it would be easy to say it’s too much.

“Missing the big opportunity a year before by one point in an exceptional season against an exceptional opponent is really hard to take. I am really proud of the boys how they did it and I think they deserve each award they could get.”

Runner-up: Exeter Chiefs

It has been a remarkable decade of relentless improvement by the Devonians. They had won two domestic Premiership titles but capped those achievements this year by winning the Champions Cup, the top prize in European rugby union.

Third: Men’s England cricket team

Those of us linked to sport will never forget the early months of 2020 wondering how we could get our sporting fix and how would the media fill their air time and pages? We have to salute the efforts of the ECB and the England cricket team in ensuring top quality Test cricket took place – admittedly in empty grounds. Even so the the Test series against the West Indies and Pakistan was exceptional.

The SJA President’s Award: Chris Brasher

Brasher won Olympic steeplechase gold at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics before becoming athletics correspondent and then sports editor of The Observer. “All of this was simply the preamble to his greatest achievement,” said President Patrick Collins.

After a visit to New York in 1979 to run in the fledgling New York Marathon, Brasher co-founded the London Marathon and on a March morning in 1981, 6,747 runners set off from Greenwich for the very first London Marathon. Since then more than one million runners have completed the London Marathon with more than one billion pounds raised for charity.

Our President said: “Many names spring to mind when picking a winner for this award, but I’ve picked the person who – in my view – leaves the most enduring legacy. It is no exaggeration to claim that we are a healthier, more open-hearted nation as a result of the London Marathon. And most of the credit must go to this man.”

The SJA Bill McGowran Trophy: Dame Sarah Storey, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid

The Trophy is awarded to the male and female para athletes of the year. Storey added three world titles to her collection in January at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Canada.

Talking about next year’s Tokyo Paralympics Storey said: “We wait to see the exact details but Paralympics GB are doing an incredible job working alongside cycling and all the other sports to make sure that athletes are incredibly well prepared, and then me and my little bubble will work out how we feed into that bigger one.”

Hewett and Reid completed a career Grand Slam of men’s doubles titles by winning the French Open at Roland Garros. The win returned them to the top of the men’s double world rankings.

When asked if the pair had felt any pressure going into the French open Gordon said: “We felt a good amount of pressure, the French open was the last Grand Slam myself and Alfie hadn’t won together so it was obviously one of our big goals to try and achieve.”

The National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award:  Kim Daybell, Polly Swann, Vicky Wright

All three stepped away from sport this year. Two-time Paralympian Daybell swapped his table tennis bat for Covid-19 wards having completed his medical degree in 2018 and since then combining sport with working part-time as a junior doctor. Instead of training for Tokyo, he is now working full-time in A&E in North London having spent the last couple of months on the Covid-19 wards.

Rower Swann began her medical degree 13 years ago. Two years shy of qualifying as a doctor, she put everything on hold to try and make the London 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately she missed the home Games through injury but in 2016 finished second with the women’s eight in Rio. Recently finishing her medical degree, Polly stepped back into her medical role to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vicky Wright is part of the curling team representing Scotland. Having taken a career break to pursue her Olympic ambitions and preparing to compete in the World Championships, she returned to her role as a general surgical ward nurse to aid the fight against coronavirus.

Kim Daybell said: “It’s a really proud time to work for the NHS, I was glad I was able to do my bit. Talking to other people and particularly other athletes what they found hard was feeling powerless. We were lucky to throw ourselves back into work and to do our bit to help everyone get through it.”

Winners of the Sport for Social Change Awards

Who is the greatest of all?