Golfer Rory McIlroy, the winner of two Majors in 2014 including the Open Championship, was this afternoon announced by Sir Michael Parkinson, the President of the Sports Journalists’ Association, as the 65th winner of the SJA’s Sportsman of the Year award.
But McIlroy was denied a rare double at the SJA’s British Sports Awards when the Team of the Year prize went not to the Northern Irishman and his Ryder Cup team mates, but to Katy Mclean, Emily Scarratt, Maggie Alphonsi and the rest of the England women’s World Cup-winning rugby squad.
Jo Pavey, the European 10,000 metres champion at the age of 40, was voted by the SJA’s members as their Sportswoman of the Year.
The awards were announced at a gala ceremony held in central London, sponsored by The National Lottery, and attended by nearly 400 celebrity guests from sport, politics and the media.
The National Lottery is celebrating 20 years of providing medal-winning funding – in total, 637 Olympic and Paralympic medals have been won by Lottery-backed British competitors since 1994.
The National Lottery made its own Spirit of Sport Award to a winner of two Olympic gold medals, Dame Kelly Holmes, for her work with her charitable foundation since retiring from the track.
And Sir Michael Parkinson made a special presentation to Sir Chris Hoy to mark the Scottish cyclist’s career achievements, including six Olympic golds and 11 world titles.
The SJA’s British Sports Awards are determined by the votes of the Association’s members – nearly a thousand sports writers, editors, photographers and broadcasters.
The Sportsman of the Year is the oldest award of its kind in the country, having first been presented in 1949. In the SJA voting, McIlroy finished ahead of F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and Commonwealth and European long jump gold medal-winner Greg Rutherford.
McIlroy is the first golfer to win the cherished silver cigar case trophy since Sir Nick Faldo in 1990. The last time a Northern Irishman won the SJA title was the champion jump jockey, AP McCoy, in 2010.
Pavey won the hearts – and minds – of the shrewd press box judges in casting their votes for her inspiring tough running, at aged 40, to win the European 10,000 metres title in the summer. Athletes have dominated the SJA’s Sportswoman of the Year title, winning it 26 times since it was first presented to Mary Bignal (later Mrs Mary Rand) in 1959. Pavey is the third woman athlete to have won the SJA title in the last three years, following Olympic and world champions Jessica Ennis and Christine Ohuruogu.
Runner-up in the 2014 voting behind Pavey was Winter Olympics gold medal-winner Lizzy Yarnold, Britain’s sole Sochi champion after hurtling downhill on her skeleton bob. Third was teenaged gymnast Claudia Fragapane, who won four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The voting was closest for the Team of the Year, which Europe’s golfers have won three times in the past decade. But in 2014, their claims were less compelling for the voters than the England women’s team which managed to win the Rugby World Cup for the first time. Behind the rugby players and golfers in the SJA voting was Britain’s world title-winning men’s eight rowing crew.
The rugby players are the first women’s team to win this SJA title since their Ashes-winning cricket counterparts in 2009.
Other award-winners at the SJA awards lunch, staged at the Grand Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden, were the Yorkshire organisers of the Grand Depart for the Tour de France, who took the BT Sport-sponsored JL Manning Award for services off the field of play.
The SJA recognised burgeoning new talents with three separate prizes: Fragapane, who has celebrated her 17th birthday since the Glasgow Games, received the SJA Committee Award, while the International Newcomer Award went to England cricketer Moeen Ali following his debut season, and the Pat Besford Trophy for the outstanding performance of the year went to world record-breaking swimmer Adam Peaty.
Discus thrower Dan Greaves and skier Kelly Gallagher, with her guide Charlotte Evans, won our Bill McGowran Trophy for achievement in Paralympic sport.
But the show-stopping award presentation was surely that made by the SJA chairman, David Walker.
For the prize in his gift, the Daily Mirror’s sports editor chose to present the Chairman’s Award to Lou Macari, Neil Baldwin and screenwriter Peter Bowker, who brought to life Macari and Baldwin’s time together at Stoke City in the acclaimed and uplifting BBC TV drama Marvellous, starring Toby Jones.
As well as being the only time when the late Tony Benn has made an appearance at the SJA British Sports Awards, Baldwin, the former Stoke kitman and the founder of Neil Baldwin FC, caused great laughter and brought huge applause as he made his entrance in typical style…
FULL LIST OF WINNERS AT THE 2014
SJA BRITISH SPORTS AWARDS, sponsored by THE NATIONAL LOTTERY
Sportswoman of the Year: Jo Pavey (Athletics)
Team of the Year: England women rugby
Sportsman of the Year: Rory McIlroy (Golf)
The National Lottery Spirit of Sport Award: Dame Kelly Holmes
SJA President’s Award: Sir Chris Hoy
BT Sport JL Manning Award for services off the field of play: Welcome to Yorkshire and organisers of the Tour de France Grand Depart
SJA Committee Award: Claudia Fragapane (Gymnastics)
SJA Bill McGowran Trophy for achievement in Paralympic sport: Dan Greaves (Athletics); Kelly Gallagher with Charlotte Evans (Skiing)
SJA Peter Wilson Trophy for international newcomer: Moeen Ali (Cricket)
SJA Chairman’s Award: Lou Macari, Neil Baldwin and Peter Bowker
SJA Pat Besford Award for outstanding performance of the year: Adam Peaty (Swimming)
- Further reports from the SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery, including pictures and video, will be published on sportsjournalists.co.uk in the coming days
- The SJA is the largest member organisation of sports media professionals in the world. Join us: Click here for more details
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Mon Mar 23: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, sponsored by BT Sport, at the Grand Connaught Rooms. Entry forms now available here
Mon Sep 14: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill Golf Club