Mo Farrah was, for me, actually a surprising omission from the 2010 short list when he won double gold in the 5000m and 10,000m at the European Championships. This year at the world he won gold in 5000m after achieving a silver in the 10,000m. He also won gold in the European Indoor 5000m this year. For a distance runner to keep winning this is an outstanding achievement.
Andrew Strauss the England Cricket captain who in the winter became only the third England captain to have lead the team to victory in the Ashes both Home and Away in the winter tour. The team made innings of over 500 in four of the test. In the first test there 517-1 (Strauss being the man out stumped for the first time in a test for 100) came too late in the day. But the 644 in the last test was an England record on Australian soil. Although he did make his 19th Test Century and his 6000th test run it wasn't his greatest personal series.
Dai Greene the Welsh hurdler like Mo Farrah was absent from last year's list. He'd won the 400m hurdles both in the European and Commonwealth championships. So this year to top it he won the Worlds, pulling through on a strong field in the home straight. He's also earlier in the year won a time of 45.82 in Birmingham which is second only to Kriss Akabushi in the UK record books.
Rory McIlroy the young Northern Irish golfer looked set to lead the Master from start to finish before shanking his tees shot on the 10th having led for 3½ rounds. Having shot the worse losing round for a leader in the Masters he then in the next Major the U.S. Open led from the start again. He went into the final day already holding several records. This time he didn't add that of choker as he scored the lowest aggregate score by some 4 shots in U.S. Open history. In the P.G.A. he hurt his wrist playing against a tree trunk, but played on. However, in his next four tournaments he was always in the top 3. He won the Shanghai Masters the richest tournament in the world and ends the year World Number 2 behind another of those shortlisted.
Andy Murray the Scot started the year with his second Grand Slam final, but lost the final to Novak Djoković. He was beaten in the semi-final of the other three Slams. But in the Autumn had an good swing winning four out of five tournaments in the run up to the World Tour Finals, overtaking Roger Federer to World Number 3 on the way. But he was forced to retire hurt from the London season ender and Rog jumped over him again.
Alastair Cook in the very successful tour of Australia managed to become the second highest ever England run scorer in a series with 766 (only Wally Hammond 80 years earlier scored more in a series), including 3 centuries. His 235 not out in the first test (his first test double century) at the Gabba beat the record of Don Bradman. He was man of the series in Australia. He took over the One Day International captaincy for the summer. He secured a 3-2 series win over Sri Lanka, and he again was man of the series. In the test series against India he came within 6 runs of his first test triple century.
Darren Clarke the second Northern Irish golfer in the shortlist. The elder statesman of Northern Irish golf. Who was most famous for his 2007 emotional return to competitive golf after the death of his wife Heather. Nobody was talking about Darren as an Open hopeful. His compatriots Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were being talked about. He hadn't made the top ten of any major since 2001. However, after his 20th Attempt he finally won the Claret jug and for the first time since 1910 a country other than the USA had won back to back Majors.
Amir Khan last December just before SPOTY Amir defended his Light Welterweight title for a third time. This year saw firstly a defence against the Irishman Paul McCloskey who had been unbeaten in 22 fights but it was another defence for Amir after a TKO in the 6th. His only other fight of the year was against the IBF champion Zab Judah in an unification bout. In the 5th Amir landed a knockout blow to the belt and walked away with the two belts. He'll be fighting American Lamont Paterson on 10 December before SPOTY takes place.
Mark Cavendish the Manx sprinter was on this list last year. This year he wore the leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia for one stage, having won the first stage and two others. He also won the Olympic trial event the London Surrey Classic and two stages on the Tour of Britian, leading for the first two days and on points for the first three. But of course the reason he is nomiated is as the first British man to win the Green Jersey of the Tour de France with yet another five stages and also the World Championships in Denmark. Meaning next year when he isn't leading on points he'll be in the rainbow jersey, the first Brit since 1965.
Luke Donald secured the PGA money list title, currently also leads the European Tour Money list and is the world number one ahead of two other UK golfers. In February he won the Accenture Match Play Title beaten the eventual world number one in the final. He also reached the final of the Volve World Match Play Championship a win would have made him world number one, but after 14 straight match play wins he lost. However, when he beat Lee Westwood in a play-off for the European PGA title he overtook him to be world number one. In all he won four titles in the year.
So this year's list contains No women!!, three golfers (two of whom are Northern Irish, two cricketers, two athletes (a long distance runner and a hurdler) a cyclist, a boxer, an a tennis player. Two Northern Irish, a Scot, a Welshman, a Manxman and five Englishmen.
So who is going to win?
I'm ruling out Strauss as he isn't even the best Cricketer in the list and the same applies to Darren although it was good for him to win the Open, he is only the third best golfer in Northern Ireland and third best in this list, although a big personality. I'm also going to rule out Andy Murray again this year, although he is winning titles he is not world number one, nor won a major title which everyone else left is.
When it comes to the athletes there is pure gold, ok Mo has one silver. But to have run almost ½ of a marathon with the 5000m heats he for me has the slight edge, not that Dai Greene's acheivements have not been outstanding.
The two remaining golfers are Mr Consistent in Donald against the man who has had us on the edge of our seats so often this season in McIlroy. They may well by number one and two in the world but it is the way that have dealt with expectations this year. Rory has led 7 rounds of the Majors this year won one and had 5 other top three finishes, Luke has carried on strongest in match play events but also has was a play-off while Rory has lost a couple. Objectively I'd like to say that Luke edges this contest, but it seems that everyone loves Rory's story, the comeback from the Master's to the US Open. However, with three golfers in the mix that vote may be split too much for any of them to win.
Amir Khan is trying to be the fifth boxer to win the title, following Cooper (twice) McGuigan, Lewis and Calzaghe. He has picked up a second belt this year and been dominant in all his games since he was last considered. In some years he may well have stood a chance but there are others who will certainly beat him; one of the golfers, one of the athletes deserve to, but there is no split boxing vote and last time a boxer won another Ricky Hatton came third.
However, I think the real contest is between Alastair Cook and Mark Cavendish. The last time a Brit won the World Cycling Road Race Championships he also took SPOTY and that was without winning much of note that year. But in a sport like cycling at which Britain has excelled in recent years Cavendish has risen to the very top this year. Cook similarly has shun in a year in which those who play his sport have been reasonably successful, we'll forget the limited overs matches in Australia.
The same argument can be made about both that they wouldn't win without their team. But Cook certainly has to be the one to face each ball he faces and there have been a lot of them this year, and Cav wouldn't have teams working so flat out for him, controlling grand tours or the GB guys the World Championship if they didn't know that he could put in the acceleration that would defeat anyone else in the world. Indeed there were times that Cavendish's team lead outs didn't go as planned and he still won, including the World Champs.
That is why my top three this year is:
- 3 Rory McIlroy
- 2 Alastair Cook
- 1 Mark Cavendish