In a sporting year like no other, RORY MACNAIR, MATT HANCOCK-BRUCE and LOUIS PESCHEUX make the case for three contenders for the SJA’s sportsman and sportswoman of the year prize, mountain biker Reece Wilson, the queen of the oche Fallon Sherrock and medal machine Dame Sarah Storey. Find out who wins on December 10th, with this year’s awards broadcast live across our social channels.
Scottish mountain biker Reece Wilson became the men’s downhill world champion in October with a career-defining victory in a bumpy year for the sport.
Wilson, 24, posted a time of 3:51.243 at the UCI Mountain Bike Championships in Leogang, Austria and finished 3.197 seconds ahead of silver medallist David Trummer.
Having made the best of a disrupted year away from competition, the Scot put it all on the line to come away with the rainbow jersey.
Speaking with the BBC, Wilson said: “I just believed in myself. I needed a year off. I used it productively and I came here believing I was a guy who could win.
“And now that I’m here I can’t believe it! It’s insane. This win means a lot, it’s been a wild couple of years in the sport, and I definitely almost gave up along the way.”
The Scot put together a calm and composed ride in tough conditions before an uncomfortable wait as 31 other competitors took to the course.
After the final rider and reigning world champion Loïc Bruni crashed halfway through the run, Wilson was overcome with emotion as his championship title was confirmed.
Reflecting on his victory on The Drop In Podcast, he spoke of his family’s reaction to a victory that had still not quite sunk in.
He said: “It’s still pretty strange to hear it to be honest. I think when people actually say it out loud it sounds the craziest.
“The emotion for close friends and family, the ones that have seen you go through what you do every day, every operation I’ve had – seeing all that come to something that good was just unbelievable.
“I’m just focussing on racing and getting some more results. I’d love to win a couple of overalls obviously, and maybe another world champs.
“I feel like if I keep working hard at it, stay humble and enjoy it, then hopefully that can happen.”
It has been a year of firsts for Fallon Sherrock, who became a worldwide household name for her darts prowess.
At the Professional Darts Corporation World Championship last December, Sherrock made history by becoming the first woman ever to win a match. She followed this up with a second round victory over 11th seed Mensur Suljović and was nicknamed ‘Queen of the Palace’.
Praise came from all quarters, including tennis legend Billie Jean King who was quick to tweet her congratulations. While some were surprised by Sherrock’s performance, darts icon Michael van Gerwen was anything but.
He said: “She’s a phenomenal player. Everyone makes a big deal of it, but I’ve known all along what she’s capable of, so for me it’s not a big thing.”
Sherrock followed up her record-breaking performance with an appearance at the Celebrity Darts World Cup in January, where she partnered former Italian footballer Luca Toni.
In a hectic February, Sherrock became the first woman in over a decade to qualify for the UK Open. She followed this by becoming the first female participant in the darts Premier League, drawing 6-6 with the tournament’s eventual winner and three-time world champion, Glen Durrant.
Durrant said to Sky Sports: “She’s had an amazing couple of months. That’s the most difficult match I’ve ever had.”
👑The Queen is back at The Palace. pic.twitter.com/MsGbtDNKW4
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 28, 2019
Before the month was over Sherrock extended her impressive run by making it to the finals of the Scottish Open, falling at the final hurdle. In March she headed to the Isle of Man for the Festival of Darts and breezed past the competition, clinching the Classic, Open, and Masters.
Sherrock was set to be the first woman to take part in the World Series of Darts with tournaments scheduled for Australia, New York and Copenhagen. However, the pandemic reduced the competition to a single finals event in Salzburg during September, where she narrowly lost to Jeff Smith in the first round.
COVID-19 could not stop Sherrock for long though, and most recently the Milton Keynes local won the Ladies WDF Virtual Cup Singles and clinching the first WDF Virtual Cup for England with her teammate Lorraine Winstanley.
Dame Sarah Storey’s sporting year was short but particularly sweet, as in just one day Britain’s greatest Paralympian won three gold medals at the Para-cycling Track World Championships in Canada.
On 1 February Storey made her case for Sportswoman of the Year.
Storey, 43, was first victorious in the Individual Pursuit, beating her compatriot Crystal Lane-Wright in the gold medal race. Then she wrapped up the Omnium with victory in the Scratch race, again edging out Lane-Wright and the rest of the field by a lap.
And finally the 200m time trial also went Storey’s way as she beat France’s Marie Patouillet by 0.13 seconds to win the Omnium.
It was a remarkable achievement in a short space of time, standing in stark contrast to the longevity of her career that began at Barcelona 1992 in the pool.
Even after 28 years of competition, Storey is still the benchmark in her discipline and has accrued 38 world titles.
Storey has undoubtedly had an outstanding year but the World Championships could have been an appendix to her potential success at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer.
Storey’s year concludes unfulfilled as the ultimate goal athletes are always working towards was held back 12 months.
With 76 world records to her name she is far and away the most successful Brit on two wheels, and her track success this year ignores that the road is her favoured discipline. Looking to Tokyo next summer, Storey has every right to be confident.
Storey said: “I am the world champion in the 3,000m, the road race and the road time trial at the moment and I am Paralympic champion in those events. When I’ve raced those events I have not been beaten, the only time someone else has had those gold medals is when I’ve been away having a baby.”