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December 3rd, 2008


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09:43 pm - The "BBC Sports Review of the Year" post of the year
The Credit Crunch has Media pressures have forced a change in the Modern Pentathlon, that most idealistic (and militaristic) of twentieth-century Olympic confections, arguably reducing it to a quadrathlon. Specifically, the shooting discipline has been subsumed into the running discipline, which will now form a run with shooting interludes. The Biathlon, competed in the Winter Olympics and elsewhere, sets the precedent by illustrating that ski-ing and shooting can be combined into a single event that is not without considerable charm. A running-and-shooting biathlon seems a strange mix, though, but this is probably strange just through unfamiliarity. Well worth a try, but I'm not clear how this can be considered an improvement over the traditional "five"-inspired definition of a pentathlon. As ever, I would be delighted to be educated otherwise.

Changing subject somewhat, I do like the "Hurricane sprint" format of Nordic combined events, where time penalties (for competitors not finishing in first place of the first event of the competition) are replaced by distance penalties, but it must be awful logistically. I hadn't really thought about the consequences of people racing around with loaded weapons before, on the grounds that cross-country skiers are sufficiently gentle and sufficiently handicapped by their motion that they can reasonably be trusted to look after their armaments. Running around with loaded weapons, though, is somehow much stranger - almost like it's an event that should take place at the World Police (and Fire) Games and nowhere else.

The BBC have announced the shortlist of ten for the Sports Personality of the Year award this year, along with the nominations that generated the ten. To me, this is a stronger indicator of impending Christmas than the first mince pie. I analysed the 2006 contest, the perpetually wonderful and perpetually owed-nineteen-e-mails Iain analysed the 2007 event. Here are my thoughts on the 2008 line-up.

The first reaction is to note that 28 sets of nominations were made this year, down from 31 the previous year and 37 the year before. Digging through the BBC blogs, the Director of BBC Sport notes that "The editors are from the main UK daily and Sunday newspaper ((singularity sic)), with the additions of some Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and English regional titles. The full list will be published when we announce the nominations. Any variation between years is usually because not all choose to vote." An entirely reasonable starting-point, though it seems odd that more editors should choose not to reply to the invitation each year. Might fewer have been asked?

In the same post, the editor tackles the old "How can {s}he be Sports Personality of the Year when they haven't got a personality?" canard very simply by saying "I take the award as being for the sportsman or woman of the year, and "personality" is just a neater way of saying that. But back to the precedents - that's what it's been called since 1954!" This is entirely sensible and a perfectly reasonable thing to be considered definitive; it's just a shame that this is not widely known. (It's also a shame that the word "personality" was chosen rather than "participant" over half a century ago.) A "Sports Personality of the Year" award, with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink emphasis on personality, would be an interesting competition, but this is not that competition. I have no objection to such a contest, which would probably be Jeff Stelling vs. Ricky Hatton vs. Phil Taylor every year now that Daley Thompson has retired, but it's probably something for Nuts TV rather than the BBC.

There's even some explicit guidance about who is eligible in terms of nationality. I like the specific guidance that non-British personalities are eligible for the award if they are resident in the UK, they play a significant amount of their sport in the UK and (if a team member) they are being considered based upon their achievements for a UK team; this is very sensible. (We might consider this the Barry McGuigan exception after the very worthy 1985 winner.) Again, it's not widely known, which is a shame.

The 28 nominators each cast 10 votes among 35 candidates as follows:

1st equal with 28 nominations

Rebecca Adlington: a swimmer who won gold medals in the 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle at the Olympic Games, the most decorated British swimmer in a single event for a hundred years. (A counter-argument against her achievements is the old theory about swimming races at different distances being much less different from each other than running events at different distances.)
Lewis Hamilton: a motor racing driver who won the Formula One championship, at only his second attempt, being the youngest driver ever to do so. (A counter-argument against his achievements is the extent to which differences in machinery may have affected competitors' performances and the extent to which Formula One results can be considered disputable.)
Chris Hoy: a cyclist who won gold medals in the Team Sprint, Individual Sprint and Keirin events at the Olympic Games, the most decorated British participant in a single Olympic Games event for a hundred years. (A counter-argument against his achievements is the extent to which differences in machinery may have affected competitors' performances and the extent to which he was aided by his team-mates in events other than the individual sprint.)

4th with 26 nominations

Andy Murray: a tennis player who is fourth in the world according to the current ATP rankings, and who has recorded victories this year against each of the three players ranked ahead of him, two of whom are considered all-time greats. (A counter-argument against his achievements is that he has not won a Grand Slam championship this year and his performance at the Olympic Games was unusually poor.)

5th with 24 nominations

Joe Calzaghe: last year's winner, a boxer who took part in two light-heavyweight contests this year, gaining victories by judge's decision against Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr., both boxers considered the finest pound-for-pound at their peak, to improve his career record to 46 wins from 46 fights. (A counter-argument against his achievements is that he only fought twice in the year against opponents past their best.)

6th equal with 20 nominations

Ben Ainslie: a sailor who won the Finn class at the Olympic Games to earn his third consecutive gold medal (after a silver in 1992) at an Olympic Games. (A counter-argument against his achievements is the number of different sorts of sailing competition that exist and how difficult it is to compare their merit.)
Bradley Wiggins: a wonderfully-named cyclist who won gold medals at the Olympic Games in the Individual Pursuit and Team Pursuit, having previously won both those medals and a gold in the Men's Madison at the World Championships. (A counter-argument against his achievements is the number of different sorts of cycling competition that exist and how difficult it is to compare their merit, plus a relatively weak performance in the Men's Madison at the Olympic Games.)

8th with 19 nominations


Christine Ohuruogu: a runner who won the women's 400m track running championship at the Olympic Games, the only Briton to win an Olympic gold medal in track or field events this year. (A counter-argument against her achievements is lingering resentment at her having missed three drugs tests in 2005-06 and her subsequent requirement of appeals for eligibility to participate in the British Olympic team.)

9th with 15 nominations

Nicole Cooke: a cyclist who won gold medals in the women's road race events at the World Championship and the Olympic Games. (A counter-argument against her achievements is the number of different sorts of cycling competition that exist and how difficult it is to compare their merit, coupled with suspicions over the differences in equipment between competitors.)

10th with 11 nominations

Rebecca Romero: a cyclist who won gold medals in the women's Individual Pursuit events at the World Championship and the Olympic Games, having also been part of the Team Pursuit gold-medal team at the World Championships. She is also distinctive for having previously won a silver medal for rowing at the 2004 Olympic Games. (Again, a counter-argument against her achievements is the number of different sorts of cycling competition that exist and how difficult it is to compare their merit, coupled with suspicions over the differences in equipment between competitors.)

Outside the short-list of ten, and thus not earning counter-arguments:

11th with 8 nominations

Victoria Pendleton: a cyclist who won gold medals in the women's Individual Sprint events at the World Championship and the Olympic Games, having also been part of the Team Sprint gold-medal team at the World Championships. Copy, paste, replace "Pursuit" with "Sprint".

12th with 7 nominations

Kevin Pietersen: a cricketer, representing England, and sometime captain. Particularly noted for unusually inventive switch-hitting in a century scored in a one-day international against New Zealand.

13th equal with 5 nominations

Mark Cavendish: a cyclist who won four stages in the Tour de France, becoming the first Briton to win three stages of the Tour in a year. He also won the gold medal, with Bradley Wiggins, in the men's Madison at the World Championships.
Cristiano Ronaldo: a footballer who won the Ballon d'Or ("European Footballer of the Year") award given by Europe's football journalists by a convincing margin.
Theo Walcott: a footballer who has established himself in the Arsenal first team at the age of just 19 and who scored three goals for England against well-regarded Croatia in a World Cup qualifying match.

16th equal with 3 nominations

James DeGale: a boxer who represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in the Middleweight class, winning the gold medal, having defeated strong opposition.
Wayne Rooney: a footballer who scored many goals for Manchester United as they won both the Premiership and the Champions' League in the 2007-08 seasons, and scored several goals for England as well.
Ellie Simmonds: a swimmer who won gold medals in two freestyle swimming events (100m and 400m in the S6 categories) at the Paralympic Games at the age of only 13.
Shane Williams: a rugby union player who led Wales to the Grand Slam in the 2008 Six Nations and was the first Welshman named IRB International Player of the Year.

20th equal with 2 nominations

Ryan Giggs: a footballer who created many goals for Manchester United as they won both the Premiership and the Champions' League in the 2007-08 seasons, at the age of 35. He has also earned many other accolades for longevity and accumulated achievement.
David Haye: a boxer who took part in two contests this year, gaining victories by knockout against Enzo Maccarinelli to win a third concurrent cruiserweight championship and Monte Barrett to establish himself among the highest-regarded heavyweights in the world.
Louis Smith: a gymnast who won a bronze medal in the pommel horse event at the Olympic Games, becoming the first Briton to win an individual gymnastics event Olympic medal since 1908.

23rd equal with 1 nomination

Mark Beaumont (The Scotsman): a Scottish cyclist who holds the world record for circumnavigating the world by bicycle, completing his 18,297 miles route having taken 194 days and 17 hours, shaving around a third off the previous record.
Michael Bisping (Daily Star): a kick-boxer and jiu-jitsu participant who won three contests at Ultimate Fighting Championship events this year.
Danny Cipriani (The Sunday Express): a rugby union fly-half who replaced Johnny Wilkinson and swore in TV interviews.
David Coulthard (The Evening Standard): a formula one driver who retired from the championship this year after fifteen years, having earned more points over his career than every previous driver except four.
Luol Deng (The Voice): a basketball player for the National Basketball Association's Chicago Bulls and the Great Britain national basketball team, who signed a six-year contract worth a guaranteed US$71,000,000 this year.
Aaron Hadlow (Sport Magazine): a professional kitesurfer who won the Pro Kiteboard Riders' Association World Championships for the fifth consecutive time this year. I hadn't heard of him before, either. Burly!
Ryan Moore (The Liverpool Echo): a flat racing jockey who was Champion Jockey in 2006 and 2008.
Ronnie O'Sullivan (The People): a snooker player who won the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Premier League this year.
Paula Radcliffe (The Sunday Times): a runner who won the New York City Marathon, raced in the Olympic marathon despite being not fully fit (finishing 23rd) and won the Great South Run 10,000m road race.
Laura Robson (Zoo Magazine): a tennis player who won the Wimbledon Junior Girls' Championship at the age of 14 years old.
Justin Rose (The Scotsman): a golfer who represented Europe at the Ryder Cup. Not actually Scottish.
Jason Smyth (Belfast Telegraph): a visually-impaired wheelchair racer who won two golds for Ireland in the 100m and 200m T13 categories at the Paralympic Games.
Ruby Walsh (Daily Star): a jockey who is the reigning Irish National Hunt champion jockey, his sixth time of claiming that title.

Time does not permit me to analyse these findings tonight. I did enjoy many of the single nominations, and some of the calls for those who might have been nominated. A former feature on the Sports Review of the Year was a round-up of all this year's British world champions; it was noted that Chrissie Wellington was the first Briton to win the (women's) Ironman World Triathlon Championship, winning two other Ironman-length events and the Long-Distance (something like two-thirds-Ironman) World Championships. It would also be an excellent chance to give credit to the likes of Aaron Hadlow, as nominated above, and British Mind Sports Personality of the Year, two-time World Memory Champsion Ben Pridmore. (I note that none of the go, Scrabble, chess, draughts, Othello or poker players were that great this year, and the bridge team who won the UK's only gold medal for England at the World Mind Sports Championships are a team.)

It's a very difficult choice this year. I am delighted to see six cyclists within the top fifteen and four in the top ten. I would be happy to see Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins or Rebecca Adlington win this year; while Lewis Hamilton's achievement is very considerable, I would like him to win the Formula One world championship next year as well and then I would happily vote in his favour. (I'd also like Ben Ainslie to win another gold medal at the next Olympic Games, where a fifth consecutive Olympic medal surely qualifies for a Redgrave-esque SPOTY title on a rollover basis. Knocking him down to second or third because the first one was, gasp, silver would be churlish.) In practice, I think it's hard to choose among the top three. This is definitely an extremely strong crop of contenders.

In conclusion, I strongly support Iain's call that the public should be able to cast a vote at the start to generate a set of nominations, as well as picking from the accumulated collection of nominees. If nothing else, it would give the viewers the chance to be reminded of the parameters of the competition - specifically, the definitions of "British" and "personality" as pertaining to this competition, as well as the way that the shortlist is generated. Even if the viewer poll generated nominations for Mick Gault, Steve Peat and Darren Kenny in 2006, that is no bad thing; while the award is the main goal and a place in the top ten shortlist impressive also, any sports participant who earns even a single nomination should be proud of an exceptional achievement.
Current Mood: coldfestive

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:missingdonut
Date:December 4th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
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Is it a showing of how far snooker has fallen off the radar that Ronnie O'Sullivan is equal to David O'Coulthard?

At least Youtube preserves the one-four-sevens.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 4th, 2008 05:43 am (UTC)
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Good point! Yes, if you look at it in the context that such a dominant player (who, this year, won the two pre-eminent titles in the game) was only nominated as much as a retiring midfield Formula One driver. You could use the same argument that golf is similarly on the skids, with only one nomination, but I think it's more likely that the golfers this year were not outstanding.

It's almost a shame that the nominators could only nominate ten names each this year; Ronnie O'Sullivan would likely have made many nominators' top twenties even if not top tens.
From:tleberle
Date:December 4th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
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Re: the Pentathlon

I think they ought to just run it like Superstars or The Krypton Factor, though the idea of the run-and-shoot is interesting to contemplate.

Back when I was a wee lad, I really got into the multidisciplinary Olympic events, perhaps because you didn't have to outright win at anything, you just had to score enough points in each one to do well. Plus there was all that maths to do, in figuring out what the 1,000 point level was in each event. It was a sports/numbers geek's dream.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 4th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
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Ah, but Superstars and The Krypton Factor don't really have so much to do with each other, and the staggered start in the run of the Modern Pentathlon (at least, the way it was implemented in the 2008 Olympic Games) is straight out of the Gladiators playbook. :-)

Iain explains it all better than anyone else I've yet seen.
[User Picture]
From:undyingking
Date:December 4th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
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Surprised that Pendleton got signficantly fewer nominations than Romero, despite having similar Olympic achievements and having been at the top of her sport for longer. Is her old rowing medal worth so much, or is it that mysterious "personality" factor creeping in?

My vote would tend towards Hoy, but I freely admit that's partly because I don't know much about swimming. I could easily believe Adlington's effort superior. (Plus she's not a posho like he is, which I know shouldn't count but...)

Hoy's performances were so dominant that one suspects he would have won on any of the other bikes, just by not such a large margin. Not so for Hamilton: I will be disappointed if he wins.
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From:oinomel71
Date:December 4th, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
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Re: running-shooting - I maintain a desire to see an updated version of the biathlon involving men's figure skating and crossbows. I may be ahead of my time on that one, though.

Re: SPOTY - I believe Lewisham Ilton most merits the award; while there are many outstanding and unparallelled achievements in national terms, I think his is the one which is outstanding and unparallelled in global terms. However, I don't think he'll wind up as the winner. When the candidates are this difficult to split on merit, standard principles of public popularity polls apply. That suggests a Scotsman - step forward Chris Hoy.
[User Picture]
From:oinomel71
Date:December 14th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
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This year I'm not a gambling man... unfortunately! :-)
[User Picture]
From:veronikamg
Date:December 4th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
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I hadn't really thought about the consequences of people racing around with loaded weapons before, on the grounds that cross-country skiers are sufficiently gentle and sufficiently handicapped by their motion that they can reasonably be trusted to look after their armaments.

As far as I know there have never been anyone shot to death during "ski-shooting", while there have been deaths in ski jumping ans slalom. Then again, guns aren't the Norwegian weapon of choice. Had it been skiing with throwing knifes at a target the situation could have gotten ugly though. :D
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 4th, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC)

Some stats, before I lose track

(Link)
Nominations

cycling 88 ~= 31.4%
swimming 31 ~= 11.1%
boxing 29 ~= 10.4%
motor racing 29 ~= 10.4%
tennis 27 ~= 9.6%
sailing 20 ~= 7.1%
running 20 ~= 7.1%
association football 15 ~= 5.4%
cricket 7 ~= 2.5%
rugby union 4 ~= 1.4%
gymnastics 2 ~= 0.7%
horse racing 2 ~= 0.7%
fighting 1 ~= 0.4%
basketball 1 ~= 0.4%
kitesurfing 1 ~= 0.4%
snooker 1 ~= 0.4%
golf 1 ~= 0.4%
wheelchair racing 1 ~= 0.4%

Nominees

cycling 7
association football 4
boxing 3
swimming 2
motor racing 2
tennis 2
running 2
rugby union 2
horse racing 2
sailing 1
cricket 1
gymnastics 1
fighting 1
basketball 1
kitesurfing 1
snooker 1
golf 1
wheelchair racing 1
From:mark_levi
Date:June 29th, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)
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These nominations are so predictable! Particularly the first 4.
Personally, I'd like to see some new fresh talent appear on the scene. These people, yes they have achieved great heights, but surely that doesn't mean that they can monopolise the competition and team places?
Mark from best buy to let mortgage rates

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