IAN COLE reports on the SJA British Sports Awards at the Tower of London that celebrated the great year in British sport – and the busiest for Britain’s sports journalists
The answer to the question on every sports fan’s lips since the Olympic flame was extinguished in Stratford in August was revealed today when Bradley Wiggins was named Sportsman of the Year.
Wiggins, Britain’s first winner of cycling’s Tour de France and the gold medallist in the Olympic time trial, topped a poll of Britain’s sports journalists.
In what was the most competitive field ever considered by the SJA members in the 64 years they have been staging these awards, Wiggins held off the challenge of Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion Mo Farah, and US Open and the Olympic men’s singles tennis champion, Andy Murray, who was third.
Wiggins’ success was cheered by a sold-out hall of 600 guests from sport and media at the Tower of London, the event sponsored by the National Lottery. The four-times Olympic gold medal-winner succeeds his Team Sky Tour de France team mate Mark Cavendish to the crown.
The Sportswoman of the Year award – for the third time in four years – went to Britain’s Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, who polled two-thirds of the votes cast. Double sculls gold medallist Katherine Grainger was runner-up, with double Olympic gold medal cyclist Laura Trott third.
Europe’s Ryder Cup team, including seven British golfers led by Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, were runaway winners of Team of the Year, having retained the trophy in the United States with the greatest last-day comeback ever seen at the event.
Runners-up were gold medal Olympic rowers Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, with Champions League winners Chelsea third in the voting.
The SJA awards were first staged in 1949 and are the country’s longest-running sports awards. They are voted by a membership of more than 750, made up of sports writers, broadcasters, photographers and editors.
Since 1963, the Disabled Sports Personality of the Year has recognised the achievement of an athlete with a disability. With the huge success of the Paralympics, two awards were made this year with David Weir – winner in 2006 – taking the men’s prize and Sarah Storey the women’s.
Weir won four gold medals at the London Paralympics – 800, 1,500, 5,000 and marathon – while Storey, with four cycling golds in 2012, had previously won the SJA title as a swimmer 19 years ago.
With SJA President Sir Michael Parkinson making some of the presentations, compere Jim Rosenthal introduced a number of other awards, including the JL Manning Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Sport, which was presented to Lord Coe, chairman of the London Olympic and Paralympic organising committee.
As special guests of the SJA at the event was a table of GamesMakers – volunteers who did much to make the Games such a great success. The 10 GamesMakers guests had all worked in the media rooms at sporting venues during the Games.
Sir Michael Parkinson gave his President’s Award to the Olympic double sculls gold medallists Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger. Grainger struck gold at the fourth attempt after three successive silvers.
Ennis was also named as the winner of the Pat Besford Trophy for the outstanding performance of the year, having broken the British heptathlon record as well as winning the Olympic gold medal during the season. She received this award from Andy Duncan, from sponsors The National Lottery.
Barry Newcombe, the chairman of the SJA committee which organises the awards, was allowed to make a special presentation of his own, after seven years in the chair. Newcombe, who has covered Wimbledon since 1965, chose doubles tennis player Johnny Marray, who won the Wimbledon title with his Danish partner after only getting into the tournament on a wildcard.
“It’s been probably the greatest year in the history of British sport, and certainly one of the busiest for our members,” Newcombe said.
“This year’s awards were twice the size of the event when I became chairman, and we are extremely grateful for the support we have received from the National Lottery, who we were delighted were able to come along and share in the celebrations with so many of the great competitors who they have helped fund through their sporting careers.”
2012 SJA Roll of Honour
Sportsman of the Year: Bradley Wiggins (Cycling)
Sportswoman of the Year: Jessica Ennis (Athletics)
Sports Team of the Year: Europe Ryder Cup (Golf)
Paralympic sport (men): David Weir (Wheelchair Athletics)
Paralympic sport (women): Sarah Storey (Cycling)
Best International Newcomer: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Football)
Outstanding Performance: Jessica Ennis (Athletics)
Outstanding Contribution to Sport: Lord Coe
Spirit of Sport: Jonnie Peacock (Paralympian)
President’s Award: Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins (Rowing)
Chairman’s Award: Jonny Marray (Tennis)
- More reports and photographs from the SJA British Sports Awards will be posted here over the coming days
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Mon Mar 11: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London. Entry forms will be available early in December.