With the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards less than 2 months away and the shortlisting announcement coming at the end of the next month, we thought this would be a good time to kick off our own coverage of the event with a look back at the representation of women in the pre-eminent annual sports award. We hope that, between the shortlisting stage and the award ceremony itself, there’ll be a lot of opportunities for us to profile some of the high profile female athletes who will go under consideration in December. Mind you, if it’s anything like last year, pickings may be a bit barren.
The Bad Old Days of 2011
Look, last year was an absolute disgrace, but at least it was recognised as a disgrace. It is more than a little disconcerting that in the 21st century, not a single woman should be represented on the 10-person shortlist; we’re not even going to start on the positioning of Nuts and Zoo ‘magazines’ on the selection panel. Actually, we might. What the hell was that all about? How in the name of all that is respectable do two ‘lads publications’ (even publication is a bit too flattering, frankly) get a say in who gets considered for an award like this in the first place? At least this year’s expert panel seems to be drawn from amongst genuine experts in the field – including six women. Progress indeed.
The Rest of History
With an award that has been running – in an ever expanding format – since the mid-1950s, there’s obviously a lot of history to consider. What we hadn’t fully recognised was how early a woman winner appeared on the roll call, with Anita Lonsbrough (Swimming) taking the trophy in 1962, leading a run of three consecutive female winners as she was followed in 1963 by Dorothy Hyman and in 1964 by Mary Rand (both Athletics). In the 57 awards held to date, though, the history of female winners has been relatively sparse though – only 13 recipients, one of whom was part of a male/female doubles team (that being the 1984 victory of Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean). Two royals, mind, with both Princess Anne (1971) and Zara Phillips (2006) taking the award. Recent Olympic years, meanwhile, have been pretty good for female athletes: a 3rd place for Rebecca Adlington in 2008, 1st place for Kelly Holmes in 2004, 2nd place for Denise Lewis and 3rd place for Tanni Grey-Thompson in 2000.
What to Expect
If we had things our way, this year’s list would be almost entirely made up of Olympians and Paralympians – and a notable majority of these would be women. Should at least six of Jessica Ennis, Ellie Simmonds, Sarah Storey, Katherine Grainger, Laura Trott, Charlotte Dujardin, Sophie Christiansen, Nicola Adams, Hope Powell and Charlotte Edwards not feature on the shortlist we’d be decidedly disappointed. In another year, either of Laura Robson and Heather Watson would surely be worthy of a shout too. Naturally, there are an awful lot of entirely deserving male shortlist-potentials too and Bradley Wiggins, David Weir, Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Ian Poulter and Ben Ainslie would all be more than worthy winners. But in a year where women’s sport has led the way in so very many ways, surely this must be the year in which women dominate the shortlisting stages. And Nuts and Zoo can go forth on that one, frankly.
The 12-competitor shortlist (expanded this year to recognise the difficulties in selecting just ten athletes at the first stage) is announced on Monday 26th November. Hopefully between then and Sunday 16th December, we’ll have a lot of very worthy female athlete portraits to bring you.