IF you want to get a measure of just what a golden year 2012 has been for British sport, consider the likely contenders for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
The 12-strong shortlist has not even been announced yet but by my reckoning there will be at least half a dozen sports stars who will be squeezed out of that stellar cast yet who would have been likely winners of the top prize in past years.
There have been so many brilliant achievements in this year of the London Olympics and Paralympics that picking the winning man or woman who will be chosen at the 59th show on 16th December is an invidious task. But I’ve dusted off the crystal ball and come up with the three superstars who will top the voting: Bradley Wiggins, Andy Murray and Mo Farah.
Wiggins, for whom sideburns have never gone out of fashion, became the first Brit to win the Tour de France and followed that by winning the Olympic time trial gold. It took his haul to seven medals, including four golds.
For Murray this was his breakthrough year. He became our first Wimbledon men’s singles finalist since the 1930s, then beat his biggest rivals to notch a unique double of Olympic gold and his first Grand Slam win at the US Open; he also revealed hitherto unsuspected emotions and instantly won an army of new fans.
Farah, Britain’s greatest distance runner, has always had a personality to match his ability. His two gold medal performances in London will be remembered as much for his ecstatic celebrations as for his astonishing, world-beating talent.
You could make a powerful case for plenty of other Olympians, too: Jessica Ennis, the games’ smiling poster girl and heptathlon champion; Ben Ainslie, winner of his fourth consecutive Olympic gold; Greg Rutherford, long jump gold medallist; triathlon gold winner Alistair Brownlee; velodrome stars Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, both double gold winners; Sir Chris Hoy, who has overtaken Steve Redgrave as Britain’s most successful Olympian with six golds; Katherine Grainger, who won gold in the double sculls after three consecutive silvers.
The list goes on: there was boxer Nicola Adams, diver Tom Daley, Paralympian over-achievers like wheelchair athlete David Weir, swimmer Ellie Simmonds, cyclist Sarah Storey and sprinter Jonnie Peacock; golfers Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.
Who’ll win it? I’ll go for the Mobot man – take a bow, Mo Farah, champion of champions.