THE MERITS of the BBC’s annual Sports Personality of the Year programme remain pretty hazy, but at least for the past two years the main award has gone to as deserving a competitor as exists.
Triple Olympic gold medal cyclist Chris Hoy was a worthy winner this time round, as was world boxing champion Joe Calzaghe in December 2007 There has been some moaning over concerted efforts north and west of the border, in particular the block voting controversy, which may have contributed to first a Welshman and then a Scotsman lifting the trophy.
Be that as it may, but the fact that Hoy beat off the initial favourites, Formula One racing world champion Lewis Hamilton and double Olympic gold winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington surely illustrates the genuine quality of this year’s field.
Hoy’s acceptance speech, when he paid the most graceful of tributes to his co-sportsmen and women, and in effect, accepted the prize on the whole GB team in Beijing, surely summed up why he was so deserving of the accolade.
Cycling may be a minority sport as far as television is concerned, at least until one-off championships come round, but Hoy has now done as much as anyone to advertise its merits. He has done so in a wise, honest and straight-talking manner. He even managed to put his country’s political leader in his place, when Alex Salmond foolishly attempted to stir up the idea of Scotland going it alone at the Olympics.
Earlier in the evening the programme’s organisers had the great sense to present this year’s lifetime achievement award to former football great Bobby Charlton, like Hoy a man whose humility is such a breath of fresh air in an era where appalling behavour is so often the norm.
Back in the spring, when Manchester United once more captured the European Cup, Charlton, now a club director, was given a winner’s medal. He quickly pocketed the object, insisting he had not earned it in the only place that mattered, on the field of play itself, in sharp contrast to the Chelsea chief exectutive who immediately placed his loser’s version round his neck.
The BBC produced another masterstroke where Charlton’s award was concerned, that of inviting his elder brother Jack to present it. The pair, normally direct opponents at Man Utd and Leeds but team mates in the English World Cup-winning side, have never been particularly close. But the failure of their relationship has been grossly exaggerated by the media, as if it was something unusual where siblings are concerned.
A warm embrace, rekindling memories of that famous day at Wembley in 1966, and then to hear Jack saying his brother was “the best player he every saw”, should surely put an end to the overplaying of their occasional disagreement.
This year’s Sports Personality of the Year programme was basically a reminder of why the show was dreamed up in the first place – to reward genuine talent for great achievement.
The evening was not all roses – the performance of sprinter Usain Bolt when he was chosen as overseas personality was both crass and embarassing – but by and large the BBC got most things right. One can almost forget the major downsides over the years, such as the time when George Best finished runner-up to Princess Anne, if they can still come up with a show like this. Why, even the presenters themselves, garrulous Gary and sunny Sue, were just about watchable.
THE PAST year was a good, if not sensational one, for sport in Shetland, culminating in the awards ceremony last month when a number of participants received some recognition of their efforts.
Someone whose success arrived just too late to be included among the nominations was table tennis player Lynda Flaws. Still aged only 15 she has already achieved much in her sport, but her recent triumph in the Scottish girls’ under-18 championship is arguably her best achievement to date.
There are some parents who continually bombard us with information about their youngsters’ achievements and, however laudable those achievements may be, it sometimes gets a bit tedious. So it was actually quite refreshing when a couple of paragraphs landed in our in-tray last week, briefly detailing Lynda’s latest exploits, and we were happy to expand the story somewhat.
This girl may fly around near a table tennis table or on a football park, but when it comes to modesty her feet are still firmly rooted to the spot. “I wasn’t sure how I would get on but it was fine to win,” she remarked. You can’t help but admire her.