One of the most prestigious sporting awards in the UK, the public-voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year is back again. Even with the sporting embargos, there has plenty of time for superstars to earn their stripes. The finalists this year are:
- Stuart Broad, cricketer
- Hollie Doyle, jokey
- Tyson Fury, boxer
- Lewis Hamilton, Formula One driver
- Jordan Henderson, footballer
- Ronnie O’Sullivan, snooker player
Of those six finalists, the oddsmakers see two clear-cut favorites, but there’s certainly a wild card in this deck of classy British sportspeople. So, who do the bookies favor, and who could upset the odds?
Record-setters lead the way in the odds
Two of Britain’s most accomplished sportspeople enjoyed terrific 2020 campaigns in which they both shattered records and added accolades to their shelves. In the Sports Personality of the Year odds, however, it looks very likely that Lewis Hamilton will come out on top, driving -450 odds into first place in the rankings.
Back in 2014, Hamilton beat Rory McIlroy and Jo Pavey to the SPOTY and has placed as the runner-up for the last two editions – trailing cyclist Geraint Thomas and cricketer Ben Stokes. After the year that the Stevenage-native has enjoyed, it seems very unlikely that he’ll be unseated by anyone when the live public vote takes place on December 20.
This year alone, Hamilton has won the Drivers’ World Championship in Formula One for the fourth year running, beat Michael Schumacher’s long-standing record of Grand Prix wins – extending the record since it was secured on October 25 – and tied Schumacher for on seven Drivers’ Championships.
Hamilton’s next-closest competitor is storied snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, whose exclusion from past SPOTY events has been bemoaned across the country for decades. Now, the 45-year-old has finally been given his shot. The Essex-born star stands at +650 following 2020 that saw him claim his sixth world title, become the oldest champion, and further his record of events and Triple Crown events claimed in the sport.
If O’Sullivan were to pip Hamilton to the prize, he’d be the first snooker player to haul in the award since Steve Davis in 1988, who had previously reached the top-three thrice. This is the first time that the already legendary potter has been a part of the public vote. Still, with F1 being more mainstream than snooker, it seems unlikely that he’ll be celebrating his first triumph – as noted by O’Sullivan to Eurosport.
A joker in the pack
Stuart Broad, Hollie Doyle, and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson all have decent claims to the SPOTY, but the one who looks the most likely to beat Hamilton or O’Sullivan to the punch is boxer Tyson Fury. A national favorite who’s always in the spotlight, he won over the general public by bouncing back from depression and drugs to return to boxing in 2018.
After a few light bouts to get back to business after a three-year absence, loud American heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder saw him as easy pickings, only for a split-decision draw to be ruled despite Fury’s dominance. In 2020, Fury avenged the decision, knocking out Wilder in seven rounds to become a heavyweight world champion once again.
In the modern age of social media and online-driven campaigns, Fury has an extra edge. He’s been very clear, as shown by the Guardian, that he wants to be removed from the SPOTY shortlist. This will only add fuel for his supporters, especially as he’s regularly locked horns with the BBC in the past. Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit groups will surely get involved, as they often, unfortunately, do, making his long-shot +1400 odds look appetizing.
Lewis Hamilton is being backed as the runaway winner, but it’s tough to count out Tyson Fury rising from the canvas, even if he doesn’t want the prize himself.
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