Andy Murray and Tyson Fury are among the favourites to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award for 2015 after being named on the 12-person shortlist Monday and following a weekend of stunning achievements for the pair.
Murray sealed Great Britain’s first Davis Cup title in 79 years with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Belgium’s David Goffin in Ghent on Sunday. The 28-year-old also won in the doubles on Saturday alongside his older brother Jamie, and that perhaps explains why the world No2 later described winning tennis’s premier team tournament as the “most emotional moment” of a career that has also seen him win Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as an Olympic gold medal.
“It’s incredible that we managed to win this competition,” said Murray, who was the Sports Personality of the Year in 2013 after beating Novak Djokovic in that year’s Wimbledon final. “I didn’t know that would ever be possible. It’s great.”
If Murray was overwhelmed by his weekend success, Fury took his – becoming boxing’s heavyweight champion of the world – somewhat in his stride having said repeatedly before his fight against Wladimir Klitschko in Düsseldorf on Saturday that he was going to prevail against the Ukrainian.
Few shared the 27-year-old’s confidence, with bookmakers pricing Klitschko as a 5-1 favourite to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO belts for a 24th time, but after 12 scrappy rounds and a unanimous points decision, Fury, who comes from a Travelling community in Wythenshaw, had the victory. “Not many people thought I could do it but I had faith all along,” he said, “and that made it an easy fight.”
Fury has become Britain’s eighth world heavyweight champion, which along with the era-defining nature of his victory should arguably make him the front runner to win the award. Especially given he also has a personality. After all, this is a man who dressed as Batman at a press conference before the fight with Klitschko and sang an Aerosmith song in the ring afterwards.
However, Fury’s controversial views, namely comparing homosexuality and abortion to paedophilia, could count against him in the running for an award first handed out in 1954 to the 5,000m runner Chris Chataway.
Before the shortlist was announced, Jessica Ennis-Hill was the favourite among many bookmakers to be take the title following a year in which she returned from the birth of her first child to secure a gold medal at August’s world championships in Beijing. The heptathlete, so used to winning, has finished third and second in the Spoty running.
Barbara Slater, the BBC’s director of sport, said the increase had come about after the selection panel, which she chaired and included the Guardian’s head of sport, Ian Prior, “agreed that significant sporting events taking place before the shortlist was announced should be taken into consideration.”
It is certainly a strong-looking list, with Mo Farah, who won two gold medals at the world championships, and the Tour de France champion Chris Froome named alongside last year’s Spoty winner Lewis Hamilton, who is in the running again having won a third Formula One title in October.
Also nominated are Adam Peaty, the winner of three gold medals at the world swimming championships, the world gymnastics gold medallist Max Whitlock, Greg Rutherford, who also claimed athletics gold in Beijing, and Kevin Sinfield, who walked away from rugby league in 2015 having led his boyhood club Leeds Rhinos to a domestic treble of honours.
Those who did not make the shortlist are sure to be discussed as much as those who did in the coming weeks, with perhaps the most glaring omission being any members of the England side who retained the Ashes this summer. It is possible, however, that Alastair Cook and co will see that achievement recognised in the team of the year category.
A public vote for the winner of the main award, whose previous winners include Henry Cooper, Virginia Wade, Daley Thompson, Paul Gascoigne and Zara Phillips, will again take place on the night of the ceremony, which will be hosted live on BBC1 by Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan and Claire Balding. The event is being staged at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Sunday, 20 December.
“All nominees have achieved exceptional success in their respective fields in the past year,” Slater said, “and we wish each of them the best of luck, while also looking forward to a great night in Belfast.”