For all the complaints and inconveniences from the past 10 days of snow and freezing temperatures, the Sports Journalists’ Association, at least, was grateful.
When Leicester races was called off with a frozen course, it meant that AP McCoy, the winner of this year’s ballot of SJA members to determine the 2010 Sportsman of the Year, was able to attend our awards lunch.
You don’t get to be champion jockey 15 times by lacking determination when it comes to accumulating winners on wet, cold winter afternoons, and were it not for the icy weather, McCoy would have been back in the saddle on Wednesday.
But in common with Fran Halsall, the record-breaking swimmer who trekked all the way down from Liverpool despite being on crutches following an ankle operation last week, or Dai Greene, the champion hurdler for whom the journey from Bath was no barrier, McCoy made his way to The Brewery in London.
There, they joined SJA President Sir Michael Parkinson and more than 300 members, guests and our sponsors, UK Sport, to celebrate a great year for British sport.
But McCoy, ever polite and keen not to cause offence, was apologetic about his prior plans. “The only good thing about the bad weather is that I was able to be here in person,” he said.
“I always try to remember what it was like when I was starting out – I only get invited to lunches like this because I win races, and you don’t win races by sitting down to lunches like this.”
McCoy, a narrow winner of the sports journalists’ poll from fellow Ulsterman, golfer Graeme McDowell, realises that by becoming the first jockey to win in the 62-year-old title, his hopes of also lifting the BBC’s “personality” prize in 10 days’ time will have received a timely boost.
“It’s very flattering to win this award, when you see the list of past winners, and see the amazing candidates this year, great sportsmen like Mark Cavendish, Tom Daley and Graeme McDowell.
“It’s great to have racing recognised by the broad range of sports journalists,” McCoy said.
All the award-winners on the day were interviewed on stage by co-presenter Jim Rosenthal, with Colin Montgomerie, the Ryder Cup team captain, endorsing the SJA’s choice of Ticket for Troops as its nominated charity.
Montgomerie received his JL Manning Award, for an outstanding contribution to sport off the field of play, from two members of the Tickets for Troops party, Christina Schmid and LCpl Matthew Croucher GC.
Christina Schmid is the widow of Sgt Olaf Schmid GC, while Royal Marine Croucher was awarded his George Cross after an act of conspicuous bravery in Afghanistan.
“I might be here representing a marvellous team,” Montgomerie said, visibly touched by the presentation, “but we know ourselves that the team here with us are the reason we are here in the first place.”
The former European No1 golfer was clearly delighted by his Ryder Cup team picking up another trophy. “When you see the six nominations for this award, it is a great honour for golf to come out on top, so thank you all.
“It was an amazing four days… we were pushing the boundaries with weather in Wales in October. And we failed.
“The Ryder Cup ended up with a totally dramatic end to the event, and as long as it was 14 and a half to 13 and a half on our side, it was a fine result,” Montgomerie said.
“I was there supposedly to motivate, but there was no motivation required, motivation was given by losing the Ryder Cup two years ago. To try and win it back on home ground just became a responsibility really and an honour for me to be able to captain 12 such fine men. Every one of them contributed to that victory.
“It was one of the few competitions I’ve ever been to without my golf clubs. I was doing nothing really at all just putting the players in the right positions and let them go and they did a brilliant job.
“I must admit, playing would be easier than having the problems of managing such a team. Every time someone missed a three-foot putt, it was my fault.
“It is always great to beat the Americans, especially with Tiger Woods involved – they were a very strong team and well-managed themselves, so it was a great victory for us all.”
Like McCoy, Montgomerie clearly prefers winning, and questioned by Rosenthal, he confirmed to the audience at the SJA lunch that he wants to be back as a Ryder Cup winner as a player. “No team captain has played in the Ryder Cup since captaining the team, so there’s an opportunity,” Montgomerie said. “I’ll be 49 at that stage but golf gives us that opportunity to keep going on, I’ve just got to get my own game in shape and not worry about other people’s for a change.
“Its very important for me to try and play again in the Ryder Cup. It is something very close to my heart.”
To read our reports and view pictures from the SJA British Sports Awards, follow these links: