As the sporting year draws to a close and with Christmas only days away, it’s Sports Personality of the Year time once again, as this year’s ceremony takes place on Wednesday at BBC Sport HQ at MediaCity in Salford.
Last year’s winner Emma Raducanu has rather had a season to forget, and this year it looks like a two-horse race for the top prize. Though, it appears 24 hours before the show, Beth Mead has already been crowned by many insiders.
With a public vote to determine the winner once more, Beth Mead is now the overwhelming favourite to continue the run of sportswomen at the top, at the very shortest price of 1/20 with Coral, Betfair and SkyBet.
Part of the Lionesses’ winning UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 squad on home soil, Mead won Player of the Tournament scoring six goals, as the Arsenal forward also notched five assists. But could Ben Stokes yet throw a spanner in the works?
A previous winner in 2019, the England Test skipper has just led his side to an historic 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan on the subcontinent, also redefining the sport with new coach Brendan McCullum.
Then there was the small matter of playing the decisive knock in the T20 World Cup final against Pakistan in Australia, as England became the very first side to hold both T20 and 50-over crowns in history, as unanimous kings of white ball cricket. More than a decent case to swing the jury, then?
Stokes is 20/1 with VBet but is a short as 12/1 with other bookies. There might yet be some movement on Wednesday and were Stokes to seal the gong, he would be only the second person in SPOTY history to win in back-to-back years, after Andy Murray did so in 2015 and 2016.
In terms of the battle for Team of the Year, one result could perhaps determine another and though the Lionesses would be worthy winners, could anyone argue with England’s cricketers being awarded it instead? If Mead wins SPOTY, England could get TOTY. Vice-versa.
For a top three finish meanwhile, Ronnie O’ Sullivan is the bookies’ pick to finish third after winning a record-breaking seventh world title. However, given a year dominated by women’s sport, Eve Muirhead to pip Ronnie to his first top-three finish might be worth considering.
As Team GB skip in Beijing, 32-year-old Muirhead led her rink to Winter Olympic glory adding gold to the bronze she won in Sochi eight years ago.
In her fourth successive Games appearance, the Perth native’s won alongside Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds and Hailey Duff, sensationally beating Japan 10-3 in the final. For Muirhead to take a top three place, a 9/4 punt with Betfred is an interesting bet.
The remaining two contenders are Jake Wightman and Jessica Gadirova. Both had years to remember, with Wightman taking a surprise gold in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, also claiming Commonwealth bronze in Birmingham. A 9/2 offering for a top three with Ladbrokes.
It was also a golden year for 18-year-old Gadirova, who claimed artistic gymnastics gold at the Worlds’ in Liverpool becoming only the second British female after Beth Tweddle to win floor gold. Gadirova was also named Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year and is 8/1 with William Hill for third spot.