WHO WILL GET YOUR VOTE? The 62nd running of the SJA’s Sportsman of the Year may prove to be among the closest contested with some of the strongest candidates. IAN COLE looks at the leading candidates
Tony McCoy and Mo Farah are heading the field as the contest to find the SJA’s Sportsman of the Year for 2010 approaches the final bend.
McCoy, the master jockey, would be an appropriate choice in this non-Olympic year. Who can forget his awesome ride on Don’t Push It to win the Grand National at Aintree in April?
AP’s uncharacteristic emotion and Gazza-like tears at the finish propelled him into the category of household name, an “overnight success” after 15 years as the completely dominant National Hunt champion jockey, accumulating more than 3,000 winners in his career.
Despite being lauded by the racing fraternity and admired by those with a more general sporting brief, it was his National victory, at a 15th time of trying, that gave McCoy that wider public profile.
Here’s a good quiz question: Who was champion National Hunt jockey before McCoy? Answer, Richard Dunwoody back in 1995.
McCoy, 36, hails from Co Antrim in Northern Ireland and is therefore very eligible for our award, which has never gone to a jockey in the 61 years it has been presented.
Farah arrived in this country from his native Somalia at the age of eight and has worn the British athletics vest with pride and distinction around the world for a decade.
Now 27, Farah’s career reached its peak this summer when he won both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres gold medals at the European championships – the first Briton and only the fifth man ever to do the double.
To crown his season, Farah went to Zurich in August and broke David Moorcroft’s British 5,000m record that had stood for 28 years, thus becoming the first Briton to run under the distance inside 13 minutes.
There were major successes elsewhere, too.
Britain again has a heavyweight world champion in David Haye.
Haye’s astonishing battle with Nikolai Valuev came too close to the 2009 SJA British Sports Awards to be considered, but his performances since then certainly qualify him for consideration this year, as he successfully defended his WBA heavyweight title with a ninth round stoppage of John Ruiz in Manchester.
Haye’s next defence, against Olympic gold medal-winner Audley Harrison, comes 10 days before the deadline for voting in the SJA ballot, so you may want to wait for that fight before making up your mind.
Britain also enjoyed having a golf Major winner in 2010, too, as another Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell, became the first European to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. McDowell is the first Briton to win a Major since 1999.
A third Ulsterman, Rory McIlroy, became the youngest golfer since Tiger Woods to win a US Tour event when he won the Quail Hollow Championship the day before his 21st birthday. McIlroy also set a record Open first round score of 63 at St Andrews.
On the motor racing circuit, Lewis Hamilton, our winner in 2007, and Jenson Button, last year’s recipient, both made their mark on the Formula 1 world drivers’ championship, Hamilton holding a narrow lead entering the second half of the season.
Voting for the SJA Sportsman of the Year does not close until November 9, more than a week after the final Grand Prix of the season, so you can wait until then to determine where to place your choice.
Depending on his own pedalpower was Mark Cavendish, sprint king of the Tour de France with five stage wins, including the final dash along the Champs Elysees for the second successive year, taking his career total of stage wins in the world’s greatest cycle race to 15.
Suitably, in the most successful England cricket team, in Tests and one-dayers, there is one of the world’s outstanding cricketers.
Graeme Swann has established himself as the No1 spin bowler in the world. When he bowled out Bangladesh in Dacca in March he became the first England off-spinner to taken 10 wickets in a Test match since Jim Laker against the Australians in 1956.
Of course, all these candidates for your votes are just suggestions. You can vote for your top three, including sportsmen not mentioned here. The choice, ultimately, is yours, and there are several other worthy sportsmen for consideration, too:
Phillips Idowu defied expectations yet again to add the European triple jump crown to his world and Commonwealth titles, recording a lifetime best to do so.
Daniel Keatings, gold on the pommel horse at the European gymnastics championships was Britain’s first gold in the sport at a major event.
Chris Hoy won his 10th career world championship cycling gold medal in the keirin.
Lee Westwood, the runner-up in the US Masters and winner of the St Jude Classic in Memphis.
Andy Murray held on to his ranking of No4 in the world but lost the Australian Open final to Roger Federer, the Wimbledon semi-final to Rafa Nadal and went out of the US Open to Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round.
Alan Wills, world field archery champion.
Brian Davis, won wide acclaim when he called a two-stroke penalty on himself, costing £500,000 in prize money, during a play-off with Jim Furyk in the Verizon Heritage Classic in South Carolina.
Who is worthy of your vote? Check out our experts’ views here:
Voting for the SJA’s annual British Sports Awards is now open. Only SJA members may vote, and they are allowed to vote only once, when they must choose their top three choices for Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year.
Voting forms are being posted to members with the SJA Bulletin autumn edition, or you may vote online.
Tickets to attend the SJA British Sports Awards lunch on December 8 are also now on sale.