It is one of the evenings that sports fans the country over look forward to around this time of the year. Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) has become an annual fixture in so many calendars, and, with a further 12 worthy nominees all in contention for the prestigious award, this year promises to be no different in living up to those expectations. A three part series of features attempting the impossible – to predict the candidates’ final positions – will begin by placing those forecast to finish 12th-9th.
12. Jonathan Rea – Motorcycling
Apologies to the avid motorcycling fans out there, but Jonathan Rea was the one name of the shortlist that I was not familiar with before his nomination, and it is for that reason why he may struggle to receive the quantity of votes his achievements do genuinely deserve.
The 30-year-old Northern Irishman has been crowned Superbike World Champion for three successive years now, and finished this season with a record 556 points.
Just five wins short of Carl Fogarty’s all-time record of 59 career victories, Rea’s year became even better when he was named an MBE on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
With the above in mind, along with the fact that the latest nominated motorcyclist, James Toseland finished fourth on the shortlist back in 2007, it would be foolish to write off Rea’s chances of going some distance on Sunday evening entirely.
11. Bianca Walkden – Taekwondo
Another who may fall victim to the public’s unawareness of the immense demands of such a physically and emotionally draining sport is taekwondo’s Bianca Walkden.
A 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, the 26-year-old became the first Briton ever to retain a taekwondo world title with victory in South Korea this year, before going on to claim further successes in London, Moscow and Morocco at their respective Grand Prix events.
That heavyweight gold medal at the World Championships just six months ago ensured that Walkden was able to secure a fourth successive global title, and such achievements have led her to become the first athlete ever from the sport to be shortlisted for the SPOTY award.
Both Aaron Cook and Jade Jones have represented taekwondo at the ceremony before however, as each athlete was nominated for the Young Personality of the Year award in 2008 and 2014 respectively.
10. Elise Christie – Short Track Speed Skating
Perhaps a more familiar name to the British public, yet continuing in the vein of a sport that many are unlikely to be overly familiar with. Elise Christie has become perhaps as well-known over recent years as many British Winter Olympians can ever expect to be, even if the media’s portrayal of her has focused more on the challenges she has faced than on the successes she has enjoyed.
Christie has bounced back from a 2014 Winter Olympic Games in which she was (harshly) penalised in all three events she entered, to become a triple world champion at her sport.
The 27-year-old Scot won gold in the 1,000m, 1500m, and overall event at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam, along with a bronze medal in the 3,000m.
Similarly to Rea and motorcycling, although figure skating has not featured heavily in recent SPOTY award ceremonies, Christie can take heart from the sport’s past successes in the event. In fact, she will be aiming to become the fourth athlete from her sport to collect the trophy, following John Curry (1976), Robin Cousins (1980), and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s (1984) successes; all of which came over three decades ago.
9. Johanna Konta – Tennis
A fourth and final athlete featuring in this part of the series who deserves to finish much higher than has been predicted here. Johanna Konta has enjoyed a quite phenomenal couple of seasons, with an unrivalled summer 2017 forcing judges to list her as a nominee for the award.
In rising to a career-high of fourth in the WTA world rankings as she reached this year’s Wimbledon semi-finals, Konta replaces Andy Murray from recent years as tennis’s sole representative on the shortlist, and she will be hoping to take the trophy from the Scotsman’s hands should she be named SPOTY on Sunday evening.
Nominated for the award for the very first time, another of the New South Wales-born athlete’s highlights this year was an exceptional victory over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the Miami Open.
A disappointing final four months of the season, featuring: an early exit from a number of tournaments, including the US Open; a split from her coach, Wim Fissette; and a foot injury that contributed to her missing out on the WTA Finals in London, may limit her to a lower standing than perhaps deserved.
How to Watch:
Coverage: BBC One, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport Website
Date: Sunday 17 December, 2017
Time: 18:45 GMT
Venue: Echo Arena, Liverpool