This year’s top ten is characterised by a huge sporting diversity. To the nation’s shock horror, there are no footballers worthy of the award in 2011. Instead, two gold medallist runners are joined by a cyclist, a tennis player, a boxer, two cricketers and three golfers. In the year leading up to the Olympics, this reflects a growing dedication to a wide range of different sports from the Great British public. Here are the final five:
…completed an emotional journey…
It is not often that a veteran chasing a dream finally achieves his goal after years and years of fruitfulness. In 2011, Darren Clarke entered his 54th major and 20th Open Championship – and won it. The first major title of his career completed an emotional journey for the Northern Irishman as he dedicated the victory to his late wife, Heather. Clarke also won the Iberdrola Open this year, but will mainly be remembered for his courageous putting to hold off Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson at the Open. Golf’s popularity, as well as Clarke’s personal popularity makes him a strong favourite with the bookmakers to become Sports Personality of the Year.
…became the world’s number one golfer,
Luke Donald. In fact, Donald isn’t just any golfer, this year he became the world’s number one golfer, defeating fellow countryman, Lee Westwood, in a play-off at the PGA Championships at Wentworth. If this award were judged by financial winnings, Donald would be in with a big shout as his season’s earnings totalled over £7 million. Consistency was the key in a sensational 2011 as Donald made 14 top-10 finishes in 19 US tournaments – his immense form earning him the PGA Player of the Year award. Two titles wins, two runner-ups finishes and two 3rd place finishes give Luke Donald strong credentials for this year’s award.
2011 represented a year of success…
25 years old and a World Athletics Champion. This is what Dai Greene can wake up every morning saying. Very few in the world can boast such an accolade – but the Welshman can, delivering Britain’s first gold of the Daegu World Championships in the 400m hurdles in August. 2011 represented a year of success for the hurdler as he set his sights on his target, trained vigorously and ultimately produced his absolute best at the right moment. Another Gold medal beckoned in the European Team Championships in Stockholm, again in the 400m hurdles.
…just 22 but is already world number two.
Rory McIlroy represents the future of British sport. Though, the golfer’s past and present aren’t exactly mediocre either; a man of youth, McIlroy is just 22 but is already world number two. In the last 12 months, McIlroy won his first major at the US Open, golf’s richest prize in the form of the Shanghai Masters and, recently, the Hong Kong Open. What is most impressive about McIlroy is the level of glory he has attained at such a young age. It is almost a certainty that if McIlroy is not this year’s Sports Personality of the Year, he will be one day.
…commitment to test cricket remains unwavering.
The final name on the 2011 list is that of heroic England Test Cricket captain, Andrew Strauss. England are unbeaten in the last nine test matches and have the leadership of Strauss to thank for it. Winning the Ashes in Australia would be enough to give anyone legendary status, but it wasn’t enough for the England captain. No, only months later, India were demolished 4–0 to take Strauss’s side to number one in the world. At 34, Strauss has already retired from the one-day game, but his commitment to test cricket remains unwavering. A phenomenal year of English cricket had Strauss at its spearhead; maybe cricket fans will ensure that Strauss leads the way with this award, too.
Images courtesy of Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Dai Greene, Rory McIlroy and Andrew Strauss