Continuing our round-up of the runners and riders (though sadly none of the latter after the Equestrian team failed to land a single nomination) for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, I feel I should put my cards on the table. Today’s profile is pretty much my choice for the award. I can’t promise I’ll be balanced.
While many of her fellow Parathletes came into London 2012 as relatively unknown figures, Ellie Simmonds could rightly claim national superstardom even before the heady heights of this summer. And what heights those were too, adding Gold medals in the 400m freestyle and the 200m individual medley S6 categories to the 100m and 400m freestyle Golds that she took in Beijing as a 13 year old.
Coming in as a Gold medal prospect – many would have said a Gold medal certainty – the pressure was undoubtedly on Simmonds, perhaps even more so given the relative paucity of the Team GB swimming medal haul during the Olympic Games. For many – myself included – her victory over the USA’s Victoria Arlen and Simmonds’ subsequent reaction remain one of the defining moments of the sporting year. Going into the last hundred metres almost .75 seconds behind Arlen, Simmonds’ stroke rate pushed her into a narrow lead going into the final turn. With a fervent home crowd willing her on, Simmonds’ remarkable stamina and speed maintained her lead over the American; coming in as a Paralympic Gold medallist for the third time in her career, Simmonds brought the house down. Her final time a huge 5 seconds faster than the previous World Record set by Victoria Arlen.
After a summer in which few believed the Olympics could be matched, Simmonds showed that the emotion, fervour, competition and glory in the Paralympics were just as keenly felt. If Beijing 2008 was her breakthrough, London 2012 cemented her superstardom.
Why she’ll win
At age 17, Ellie Simmonds has achieved more than the vast majority of us will achieve in a lifetime. She’s an inspiration to thousands, a star in her own sport and an enormous part of the reason that this year’s Paralympic Games were so highly anticipated – even before they confounded all of our expectations. She’s an astonishing competitor, an elite athlete of the highest calibre and, as evidenced in her interviews and media profile during the Games, an absolute star of the truest kind.
Why she won’t win
Well, frankly…why wouldn’t she? I’m definitely struggling to come up with a reason why she wouldn’t. In the same way that the wonderful Jessica Ennis was the face of the Olympic Games, Simmonds was the face of the Paralympics; in the same way that Ennis delivered utterly, so did Simmonds. If I was being supremely critical, perhaps the fact that this wasn’t Simmonds’ breakthrough Games may have diminished her impact on the national consciousness somewhat. But hell, that’s being picky. Hand on heart, for me, Simmonds is the Sports Personality of the Year. But then, as things stand I’m inclined to say the same thing about Ennis and Nicola Adams too. And taking my Sportist hat off for a moment, Bradley Wiggins too. Crikey.
Image from http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012