SJA British Sports Awards 2022: Voting opens for Sportsman, Sportswoman and Sports Team of the Year

SJA members can vote now to decide the winners of three major categories at the Awards, to be held at The Brewery in London on Thursday 8 December; Adam Peaty, Emma Raducanu and the England men’s football team claimed the equivalent 2021 honours; voting for 2022 Awards closes on Monday 14 November

By Philip Barker

The SJA British Sports Awards, first held in 1949, honour the greatest sporting achievements of the year

It’s time to cast your votes for the SJA Sportsman, Sportswoman and Sports Team of 2022 – and it may well be the toughest choice you’ve ever had to make, at least in this particular vote.

It has been a year like no other on and off the field – and it ain’t done yet.

The British Sports Awards will be held at The Brewery, London, on Thursday 8 December (12pm to 4pm) – book tickets here

Not since Melbourne’s 1956 Olympics opened in late November has there been a global event starting quite so late in the year as the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and back then, the media spotlight was by no means as intense and certainly not as immediate.

The World Cup brings the debate about human rights into sharp focus and by a twist of fate, the same questions about ‘sportswashing’ were being asked as the Winter Olympics began in Beijing the best part of nine months ago.

In China, there was no chance to find out about anything firsthand.

This was because travel in the vast host city was forbidden because of a ‘closed-loop’ system designed to prevent COVID infections.

Basic information assumed the proportion of state secrets. They claimed that over 300 million had taken up winter sports, yet questions about how many of the specially selected spectators attended each event were met with consternation and a dead bat.

What the ‘closed loop’ meant was bus rides everywhere, even from a hotel within sight of the Main Media Centre building, which to give you an idea of its size, had hosted a dinosaur exhibition a couple of years.

The ice hockey venue was right across the road from the curling at the Ice Cube (aka Water Cube) where, incidentally, Rebecca Adlington did her stuff in the pool in 2008.

Instead of a Zebra crossing, a bus ride of some 20 minutes was ordained.

The journey was worth it to discover that Eve Muirhead, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds and Vicky Wright had established a closed loop of their own to beat Japan 10-3 in the gold medal match.

It came on the very last day of competition to put down an early marker for our Team of the Year.

Apart from the media, there were few watching in Beijing. What a contrast with Old Trafford in July as 68,000 thronged to see Beth Mead give England a slender 1-0 win against Austria in the opening game of the Women’s Euros.

England’s Beth Mead in action (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

From then on, the goals began to flow, for tournament top scorer Mead and for England who hit eight against Norway and another five against Northern Ireland earning progress to the knockout phase.

In the quarter-finals, it was an extra-time win against Spain, but in the semi-final, England cut loose to beat Sweden 4-0.

Then to Wembley, and over 87,000 inside for the final.

There was something inevitable that the opposition would be Germany, and equally as inevitable that the match should go to extra-time.

Ella Toone gave England the lead but the Germans equalised 10 minutes from the end.

Chloe Kelly scored the goal which won it, celebrated in a style made famous by Brandi Chastain in 1999 and quite a few others, and before a beaming Prince William handed over the trophy to skipper Leah Williamson along with hugs for the squad.

Each member of the squad could also count themselves as a candidate for Sportswoman of the Year, even before that carefully choreographed video bomb of head coach Sarina Wiegman’s media conference.

The media coverage was in accordance with the magnitude of the achievement, the first major championship won by a senior England team since 1966.

The Commonwealth Games were in full cry by this point and England’s hockey women seized the mood a week or so later.

Keeper Maddie Hinch had performed her customary heroics in a semi-final shoot-out to beat New Zealand to set up a ‘Super Sunday’ showdown with Australia for gold, beneath the stately clock tower at Birmingham University.

Meanwhile, England’s cricketers were enjoying life under new captain Ben Stokes. They swept aside reigning world test champions New Zealand, India and South Africa.

Jonny Bairstow’s four Test centuries, two in the same Test against India, were all made in such an exhilarating style as to make him a candidate for Sportsman of the Year.

England’s Jonny Bairstow, pictured here at Edgbaston in July (Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

At the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, the only British gold came from Jake Wightman in the men’s 1500m.

By happy coincidence, his dad and coach Geoff was at the microphone for the stadium commentary, a model of impartiality.

“I’m there for everybody, I am there for the whole field,” Wightman senior said later.

Jake Wightman wins in Eugene (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Within a few days, the Commonwealth Games athletics competition began in the quite splendid setting of Birmingham’s rebuilt Alexander Stadium.

This had been transformed in double quick time after a wonderful Opening Ceremony.

Eilish McColgan’s 10,000m gold delighted her mum and coach Liz who had won the very same medal twice, in 1986 and 1990. Fellow Scot Laura Muir won the first of two gold medals in the summer over 1,500m.

The second came weeks later at the European Championships, held as part of a multi-sport festival at the 1972 Olympic Park in Munich to put her in contention for our Sportswoman of the Year award.

The path from Birmingham to Munich was also taken by the gymnasts with some success.

Birmingham’s Joe Fraser delighted his home crowd with three gold medals before another triple success in Munich.

His England team-mate Jake Jarman was a four-time winner in Birmingham and became the first Briton to win European Championship gold in the vault.

Adam Peaty missed the World Swimming Championships with an injury but Ben Proud’s victory in the 50 metres freestyle was just the start of a golden summer for him.

He was an appropriate member of ‘the Pride’, the England marketing team’s latest wheeze for the Games.

Three further gold medals followed in a marvellous festival of sport which had the weather gods on its side.

Proud then repeated his 50m success at the European Championships in Rome.

Yes, a golden summer – and might there be a late run from the rugby players of both codes and both genders before the voting closes on November 14th?

Please remember, you can only vote if you are a full member of the SJA.

Voting for this has now closed