Anthony Joshua (left), pictured here with Vladimir Klitschko (right), is favourite to win BBC SPOTY 2017Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

This Sunday, the annual flagship awards ceremony for British sport will take place in the Echo Arena in Liverpool. Twelve of the nation’s brightest and best talents have been nominated for this year’s BBC SPOTY, yet it is hard to remember a year where so many of the nominees have been shrouded in controversy. The recent news of Chris Froome’s adverse drugs test leaves a dark cloud hanging over the event, yet he is by no means alone. As many as three of the dozen shortlisted have had to deal with issues away from their respective arenas this year, and many of them would be considered potential favourites for the award. No doubt, when the public’s decision is announced in Liverpool, we will see how much of a bearing these incidents had on the wider perception of the athletes in question. Here are the nominees.

 

Elise Christie (27) – Short Track Speed Skating

A major feel-good story, the nine-time world championship medalist bounced back from her torrid 2014 Winter Olympics, where she was disqualified in three events, to become a triple world champion in Rotterdam this year. The Scot took home the 1000m, 1500m, and overall titles, as well as bronze in the 3,000m. Having already been named the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the year, she is seeking to become only the fourth skater to win SPOTY. She is undoubtedly one of Britain’s biggest medal hopes at the Olympics in PyeongChang next year.

Sir Mo Farah (34) – Athletics

The newly knighted long distance runner just missed out on his fifth major championships distance double in a row after winning silver in the 5000m at the World Championships in London last August. But the Somali-born runner still took home the gold in the 10000m, despite nearly falling twice during the latter stages of the race. The four-time Olympic gold medalist also won his last career track event at a Diamond League meeting in Zurich, before turning his attention to the road. In October, Farah split from coach Alberto Salazar who is under a USADA investigation, and many believe he still has questions to answer over his relationship with the controversial figure.

Chris Froome (32) – Cycling

Chris Froome, pictured here dramatically running up Mont Ventoux during the 2016 Tour de France, has seen his hopes dashed by a recent adverse drugs testPixabay

An incredibly successful year for the Kenyan-born rider has been somewhat marred by this week's news of an adverse analytical finding for twice his allowed dose of Salbutamol in a sample from stage 18 of the Vuelta a España. Froome uses the drug to help with his asthma, and blames being over the permitted limit of 1000 nano grams per millimetre on medical advice to increase his dosage after his condition worsened during the race. Before the news broke, he had won his fourth Tour de France, become the first Briton to claim victory in the Vuelta, and only the third man to win both grand tours in the same year. He also won two bronze medals in September’s World Championships. He was one of the favourites for SPOTY before this week.

Lewis Hamilton (32) – Formula 1

Hamilton cemented his place in F1 history by becoming the most successful Briton in the history of the sport after he secured his fourth world championship at the Mexico Grand Prix. He now stands third on the all-time list, behind Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7), and he also broke the legendary German’s all time pole position record of 68. However, the Mercedes driver has had his fair share of controversy, after he was named in the Paradise Papers as having avoided a tax bill for his private jet.

Anthony Joshua (28) – Boxing

The London 2012 gold medalist confirmed his status as one of the biggest stars of boxing after his 11th round stoppage of Wladimir Klitschko in an enthralling encounter in Wembley. The 90,000 strong crowd was a post-war record for the sport, and he followed that up by defending his WBA and IBF world heavyweight belts in front of another massive crowd in Cardiff’s Principality Stadium against Carlos Takam in October. Arguably the biggest name on the list that is not shrouded in controversy, he is the favourite to take home the award.

Harry Kane (24) – Football

A stellar year for the Spurs striker saw him being the only Englishman shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or. He finished with the Premier League Golden Boot for the second successive year, and was a crucial component in England’s World Cup qualification, captaining the side for the first time and scoring the goal that sealed their place in Russia versus Slovenia. Arguably Joshua’s biggest rival for the award.

Johanna Konta (26) – Tennis

Aided by her dramatic run to the Wimbledon semi-finals – the first British woman to do so since Virginia Wade in 1978 – Konta rose to as high as number four in the world rankings, having been as low as number 150 just two years ago. The Australian-born player also won this year’s Miami Open, defeating former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the final. She seeks to follow in the footsteps of colleague Andy Murray by taking home this prize.

Jonnie Peacock (24) – Para-athletics

The Cambridgeshire-born sprinter won his second world title in London this year after claiming victory in the T44 100m final. This follows on from his success in Lyon four years previously, and is made all the more remarkable given the cramp he suffered in the warm up. He would become the first para-athlete to win SPOTY if successful.

Adam Peaty (22) – Swimming

Peaty continued his dominance in the pool in Hungary last July, where he retained his world 100m and 50m breaststroke titles. He even broke his own world record in the 50m mark twice in the same day, becoming the first man to break 26 seconds in the history of the event with a time of 25.95 seconds. Peaty must be considered a contender here due to his unprecedented continuous dominance of his sport.

Jonathan Rea (30) – Motorcycling

Awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, the Northern Irishman became the first rider to win three successive World Superbike titles, clinching this year’s success with 5 races to spare. His 16 wins during this campaign takes his overall tally to 54, leaving him just 5 behind all-time record holder Carl Fogarty.

Anya Shrubsole (26) – Cricket

Shrubsole almost single-handedly resurrected England when staring defeat in the face against India in this year’s World Cup final. She took 5 wickets in 19 balls and finished with figures of 6-46 to snatch victory for the hosts in front of a record crowd at Lords. She also became the first woman to win the Christopher-Martin Jenkins Spirit of Cricket award for her consolation of South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk following England’s semi-final victory over the rainbow nation.

Bianca Walkden (26) – Taekwando

Another candidate who has dominated her respective sport, Walkden claimed her fourth successive global title by taking home heavyweight gold at the World Championships in June. The Rio bronze-medalist became the first British fighter to successfully defend a World Championship medal, and she followed this up with Grand Prix victories in London, Moscow and Morocco.

 


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Given the spirit of the award's name, it should go without saying that conduct as well as success should play a part in being shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year. No doubt Shrubsole’s Flintoff-esque comforting of the Van Niekerk played a significant role in her name being on this list. With that in mind it is curious that off-field scandals did not play a greater part in the nomination process, granted the Froome news only broke after the shortlist was announced. The BBC appears to have taken an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ attitude towards these athletes, though it is unlikely that the public will do so with their vote. Given the skeletons in the closets of the apparent favourites, Anthony Joshua, who would have been high on the list regardless of his competition’s distractions, seems to be the most likely to claim the prize. Harry Kane is his most likely rival, and, while it is improbable that he will win, it would be no shock to see Adam Peaty come as high as third given his unprecedented dominance over his sport at such a young age  

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