Sunday, 19 December 2010

My Sports Personality of the Year - Phil 'The Power' Taylor

It's the annual 'pat on the back' night for those in sporting circles this evening as the nation chooses it's sports personality of the year.

Now let's not get hung up on the 'personality' bit. The name of the competition was changed from 'Sports Review of the Year' in 1999 but it's the same competition folks. We know it's all about sporting excellence so let's leave it at that.

The Crop of 2010
So who's in the running this year? Well, with no significant footballing or rugby triumphs to look back on over the past 12 months, it's actually a pleasantly open field in 2010.

Indeed, the 9 sports represented on the shortlist this year are Athletics (Jessica Ennis), Boxing (David Hyde), Cricket (Graeme Swann), Cycling (Mark Cavendish), Diving (Tom Daley), Darts (Phil Taylor), Golf (Graeme McDowell & Lee Westwood), Horse Racing (Tony McCoy), and Skeleton Bob (Amy Williams).

Some History
But this shouldn't come as a surprise because, looking back over the first 56 winners, 46 have come from individual sports. On only 10 occasions, has the winner been a part of a wider 'team'. It may be surprising to know that only 5 footballers have ever won the award (including Ryan Giggs in 2009), in addition to 4 cricketers and 1 rugby player.

Athletics has dominated with 17 winners coming from the track and field. An additional 2 have been swimmers with 1 rower on top.

Motor cycling/racing have taken the top prize on 7 occasions whilst boxing has done so 5 times.

There have been 3 horse jumping/equestrian winners, 3 tennis winners, 3 ice skating winners, 2 from the world of golf, 2 from cycling, and 1 from snooker (yes, Steve Davis has got a personality thank you very much).

The Contenders...
So the majority of the shortlisted few this year in fact, continue in a long tradition. Graeme Swann is the ugly duckling (see what I did there?!) in this case and I feel that whilst he's had a good season, he isn't deserving of the top prize.

Oddly, it is through his exploits in the 'team' element of golf this year, the Ryder Cup, that Graeme McDowell finds himself nominated. Personally, whilst I think he did a smashing job, I think the wider team should take the team prize this year in regonition of all of their efforts. Lee Westwood? Well, World Number One is nothing to be sniffed at but until he finally bags himself a major, I won't be voting for him for the top prize.

Tom Daley has already won the Young Sports Personality of the Year award but I think his time in the big league has not yet arrived though if he continues his impressive rise in the world of diving then it will probably only be a matter of time (how about a sensational Gold Medal performace in the 2012 London Olympics?)

David Haye, Jessica Ennis and Mark Cavendish have each had an excellent year and could be dark horses this evening but they don't make my top 3.

In 3rd Place...
Amy Williams deserves high praise indeed, having come from nowhere to win Winter Olympic gold, hurtling down a mountain at about 200mph on a toboggan (head first!) - which looks pretty damned scary to me! Hers was only the 9th British Gold in Winter Olympic history and the first individual Gold in 30 years. Big Respect.

In 2nd Place...
The favourite with many bookies to walk away with the award tonight, I would place Tony McCoy as runner-up.

Until this year, he had done virtually everything there is to do in his sport. He's ridden 3,000 winners, has been the British Champion Jockey every year since 1995/6 and has won the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Hurdle and the King George VI Chase.

But this year he crowned a magnificent career, by winning the Grand National at Aintree on Don't Push It.

In his career, he has ridden in over 13,000 races - that's the equivalent of 31,000 miles or 1.25 times around the Earth! I've had the great fortune of having witnessed him race a few times myself recently at the new Ffoslas Racecourse in west Wales.

If he wins, I'll take my hat off to him because it would be deserved.

But having said that, he isn't my number one...

And the Winner is...
Well, it leaves only one left. Phil Taylor for me, pips Tony McCoy by a head at the winning post.

A controversial choice? Absolutely. To begin with, many don't even recognise darts as a sport. But forget about the old 1970s and '80s stereotype of men swigging at lagers as they prepare to tackle the Ochey. This is a sport that has moved forward by leaps and bounds over the past decade in particular and there is one man who has stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Phil 'The Power' Taylor has won the world championship a stunning 15 times. His first in 1990, as the protegee to Eric Bristow was on the BBC in the then unified BDO Championship. His second in 1992 which I remember like it was yesterday, was his sudden-death final leg win over Mike Gregory who if memory seves, had at least 6 darts for the title but missed every one.

Since the great 'split' of 1993/'94, the PDC Championship on Sky has slowly become the one in which to be seen. So much so that the BBC sponsored BDO is now seen as a 'feeder' for the former. Phil Taylor has staggeringly won 13 of the first 17 PDC World Championships - making the final on 3 additional occasions. His only failures came in 1994, 2003, 2007 & 2008.

This year, 'The Power' is currently holder of the World Championship, World Matchplay, Premier League and UK Open titles. He is the World Number One and in his career has amassed a stunning nine '9 Dart Finishes'. This can't be underestimated. Whilst I can not factually prove it, such constant precision I'm sure is equal if not better than scoring a hole in one in golf or a 147 in snooker.

May the Best Man Win
Whoever wins, there will be a new name on the trophy this year. Indeed, in its 57 year history, it has only been won on two occasions by three individuals - Henry Cooper, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.

In those 57 years, like with horse racing above, darts has never supplied a winner of the British Sports Personality of the Year, so I'll be content if McCoy wins.

But darts is very much a 'working-class' sport and I think it has been derided for far too long. It desereves Olympic status and its main actors respected in the same way as those of other sports.

Which better way to do so than by seeing Britain choose Phil Taylor as its Sports Personality of the Year for 2010? He's got my vote.

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