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Exclusive: As UK Sport"s record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the…

EXCLUSIVE: As UK Sport's record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the funding boost

, in which Great Britain won 65 Olympic medals and 120 at the Paralympics and finished third in the medals table in both events, but British sport has aimed high since National Lottery funding was introduced in 1997. It is hard to believe Britain won just one gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Here, some of the athletes who have benefited from UK Sport funding tell Sportsmail exactly what it has meant to them…

Sir Ben Ainslie, 36
Four-time Olympic gold medallist, sailing

‘Trying to become the first nation to better our performance after a home Olympics is a fantastic goal. For me, it shows just how far British sport has come.

‘I’m not thinking about Rio right now because I’m in San Francisco with my America’s Cup team but you never know – it’s still a few years away.

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

'I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made in my career so far and I’ll definitely be in Brazil in some capacity, even if I’m not racing.

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

‘I started receiving funding in 1997. I went to my first Olympics in 1996 and won a silver medal, but we didn’t do very well as a team. We won just one gold medal – in rowing, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent in the men’s coxless pair. It was a pretty poor performance overall.

‘Then UK Sport funding came in and I think, straight away, you could see a big change in the way we were able to train. We enjoyed a big jump up the medal table in Sydney (from 36th to 10th) and that continued all the way to London.

‘British sport became more
professional, but the rest of the world upped their game as well. When I
started travelling to compete internationally most people were sleeping
in tents or in the back of their cars and trying to hold down jobs as
well as training.

'There
were very few full-time athletes. I think that’ s been the biggest
change: we have always had the passion but we simply didn’t have the
time to train and recover properly.

‘I
was lucky because I was still studying, but I relied on my parents an
awful lot. I’m sure they were very relieved when funding came on, as a
lot of parents must have been.

‘The
medical support has been unbelievable. I had a back injury six months
before London and it really was a difficult time. I had to have surgery
and a lot of physio but the support I received was phenomenal. It made a
huge difference to me and my chances of winning that gold medal.

‘Could I have achieved what I did without funding It’s a difficult one. I was fortunate in that I had success early on and was able to attract commercial sponsors, but I couldn’t have done it without the coaching and medical support there in the background.

'It was about setting up a long-term strategy to win medals and they certainly got the right people and the right strategy to do that.’

Perri Shakes-Drayton, 24. Double European indoor champion, athletics

‘It meant a lot to win two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships (in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay) in Gothenburg. You train to win medals and to be a champion was even better.

'The training that I’ve done and any doubts I may have had have gone away. I can do it and I want more. It gave me that confidence that I am as good as the rest of the girls and I want to maintain it.

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

‘It meant a lot after the Olympics. I finished on a high and I kept running close to my personal best but it was a disappointment (failing to make the final of the 400m hurdles). But rewards will come. The European titles have put the Games behind me. It’s a good feeling.

‘The 400 metres isn’t my event and hopefully I can transfer that speeds to the hurdles now. I enjoy them – there is a lot more to think about, but I haven’t achieved what I want to do yet over the hurdles.

'I’m not saying “bye” to them yet. Hurdling comes naturally now. I see a hurdle and I know how to attack it.

‘I want to come home with a medal from the World Championships in Moscow in August. I want one and I have to win one. That’s my aim.

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

‘Chris Zah has been my only coach, for the past 11 years. He took me from the grass roots to the world-class athlete I am today. It’s not really common for that to happen, but we’ve grown as a team and learnt together.

‘We’ll stay in Mile End, not move to Loughborough. We’ll stay in that gritty, crusty gym in east London because it’s working for us. It’s a good set up and I’ m not going anywhere for the moment.

‘National Lottery funding just makes life so much easier for me. The money I receive in support helps with training camps – I’m going to Daytona in Florida for a month on April 2.

I don’t take it for granted because it makes life so much more stress-free. All I have to do is worry about getting to training on time and being the athlete that I have to be to achieve my goals.’

Becky James, 21. Double world champion, track cycling.

‘I couldn’t have made my career without Lottery funding, I’ve had it since I was 15 and it’s been a huge support for me. Without it, I couldn’t make a career out of cycling because women get paid differently to men if, say, I was on a road team.

'It gives you such a lift when you first get on the programme and you become part of British Cycling, too. It’s been a great help.

‘I’m sure I wouldn’t be a double World Champion if I had a part-time job. I worked until I left home – I used to work in a kitchen doing all the food prep and washing up, which wasn’t the most glamorous job. Then I did a bit of waitressing and then I worked in a cake shop for two years in Abergavenny – serving coffee and cakes. It probably wasn’t the most productive thing to do for my sport, but it was fun.’

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Quillan Isidore, 16, joined UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme as a Development athlete in November 2012 after winning the Boys Under-16 category at the UCI BMX World Championships in Birmingham last May.

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

‘I always looked up to people in the GB team and wished I could be one of them. It was a dream when I made it onto the Olympic development programme for BMX because there are only five of us: four boys and one girl. It’s really good when we all go away for training – that’s what I want to live my life like but I’m still at school so I have to be patient. But I’m proud to represent the British team and follow in the steps of people like Sir Chris Hoy.

‘I still live at home in south London so I get a set programme to follow from my coach. I’m very dedicated – I never miss training at all. We’re not the richest family so I’m really thankful for the support.

‘You can get pretty bad injuries in
this sport so it’s good to know the back-up is there, too. I’ve been
very lucky so far, but it’s impossible to be injury-free.

'I’m
aiming for the 2020 Olympics but I’ve got 2016 in the back of my mind. I
believe that if I work really hard it can be done. We’re all working
really hard to get up the rankings and try to get GB three spots in Rio.

‘I
do think BMX is becoming more of a recognised sport. I got into it
because my friend just took me to a track in Brixton one day when I was
eight. It only had about five jumps but I just loved the feeling of
getting my front wheel off the ground. I got my first bike for my eighth
birthday and have been hooked ever since.’

UK
Sport, funded by The National Lottery, is supporting Britain’s best
athletes on the #RoadtoRio. Follow their progress @uk_sport

London 2012 heroes including Ben Ainslie, Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis gave us the time of our lives – Patrick Collins

Thank you, Sir Ben and Sir Bradley, Jessica, Ellie and David for giving us time of our lives

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UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 30 December 2012

It was towards the end of the Opening Ceremony that a blissful certainty descended. In the space of a single enchanted evening, Danny Boyle had painted a picture of a nation at ease with itself; compassionate, resourceful, diverse and quirky. And as we stumbled away from the stadium, senses reeling from the spectacle, we knew beyond question that Boyle’s masterpiece had set the stunning tone; that London would stage an Olympics for the ages.

The heroes would emerge in golden clusters; Mo and Jessica, Bradley and Victoria, Ben, Andy and all those for whom first names alone now suffice. Over the past few weeks of the awards season, those heroes have been duly feted by a grateful public. Soon they will tramp in massed ranks to the house at the end of The Mall, where a sword will touch deserving shoulders and medals will dangle from worthy lapels.

Arise: Ben Ainslie is one of the Olympic heroes being honoured for their achievements

Arise: Ben Ainslie is one of the Olympic heroes being honoured for their achievements

Pace setter: Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the Men's Individual Time Trial

Pace setter: Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the Men's Individual Time Trial

Something to behold: Jessica Ennis flew the flag for Britain as she won the heptathlon

Something to behold: Jessica Ennis flew the flag for Britain as she won the heptathlon

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It is right that they should be rewarded, especially if those rewards help us remember how it felt in the days of high summer, when great deeds were done in stadium and velodrome, on lake and road and in all those arenas which held the country entranced for day after magical day. And not merely the deeds themselves, but the numbers and the passion of those who witnessed them.

Those of us who have followed the Olympic circus down the decades had grown used to stadia being thinly populated for heats or qualifiers or so-called ‘minor’ sports. Not in London. Sebastian Coe had promised that the Games would be watched by capacity crowds. To the amazement of the International Olympic Committee, that promise was emphatically delivered.

The numbers were unprecedented. If tickets were unobtainable, then the public would stand five, ten, 15 deep to cheer on the triathletes, the marathon runners or the road racing cyclists. And not only the British contenders, but each and every Olympian.

The feats of the gods demanded full tribute, of course. Usain Bolt was already installed as a citizen of the world, while the likes of the American swimmer Michael Phelps, and Kenya’s David Rudisha, whose 800 metres world record was perhaps the performance of the entire Games, produced the kind of excellence which far superseded nationality.

But the same approval and admiration was accorded to the overmatched boxer, the outclassed swimmer, and to young Sarah Attar, the first woman athlete from Saudi Arabia to compete in an Olympic arena. Sarah finished more than 30 seconds behind the field in the 800 metres but thunderous cheers told of her ultimate triumph. Somebody asked if she had a message for her countrywomen. ‘I’d tell them: Don’t give up on your dreams,’ said Sarah, and a roomful of reporters began blinking furiously.

Usain and Michael, David and Sarah; we treated them all alike. Never was a Games more welcoming, less partisan. It was an object lesson in how civilised sport should be conducted. In truth, we surprised ourselves. For there was courtesy and friendliness, a willingness to chat with strangers, advise on travel and recommend decent pubs. This was not what visitors expected from Britain, and most certainly not from London. Their surprise was our delight.

Delivered: Sebastian Coe oversaw a fantastic Olympics in front of packed stadiums

Delivered: Sebastian Coe oversaw a fantastic Olympics in front of packed stadiums

Global citizen: Usain Bolt is known all over the world and his popularity increased further still at the Games

Global citizen: Usain Bolt is known all over the world and his popularity increased further still at the Games

What about the golf

If anybody is foolish enough to ask me about the last day of the Ryder Cup, I tell them at some length about standing on the fringe of the 18th green at Medinah, so close to the winning putt that I actually heard Martin Kaymer’s ball fall ‘clonk-clonk-clonk’ into the cup.

And it’s true, at least I think it is. Difficult to tell as, at that moment, the world went mad in celebration of the most incredible recovery in the history of the event.

In any other year, it would have been the outstanding sporting memory. In the year of the London Olympics, it took its place in a long queue.

The same may be said of Rory McIlroy. Being leading money-winner on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as US PGA champion, qualifies him for no more than an honourable mention. Even so, it was a staggering year for the young Irishman.

Naturally, the mood was assisted by the extraordinary success of Team GB. At this nostalgic time of year, the tales of gold are lovingly retold. Even those of us present on the first ‘Super Saturday’ occasionally wonder if it really happened.

But the reality was gold in the women’s team pursuit, gold in the men’s coxless four and gold for Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland in the women’s double scull. All of which was a prelude to a night of sheer fantasy in the Olympic Stadium.

Heptathlon gold for Jess Ennis, long
jump gold for Greg Rutherford, 10,000 metres gold for Mo Farah. Lord Coe
called it ‘the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed’. But it was
even more; with six Olympic gold medals, it was the greatest day that
British sport has ever known.

And so it continued; Wiggins in the time
trial, Murray at Wimbledon and, absurdly, another Super Saturday with Mo
winning an historic 5,000 metres and Bolt’s Jamaicans obliterating the
sprint relay world record.

Magic MOment: Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m at the London Olympics

Magic MOment: Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m at the London Olympics

Spectacular: It wasn't just the stadium and the fireworks which looked great

Spectacular: It wasn't just the stadium and the fireworks which looked great

Along with a fierce pride in our city and its people, there was a deep and genuine sadness when the Olympic flame died. We told ourselves that never again would we know such times, nor see such sport. That mournful conviction lasted precisely 17 days.

For, quite astonishingly, the Paralympics were equally compelling. Long before the first week was through, the names of David Weir and Sarah Storey, of Sophie Christiansen and the captivating Ellie Simmonds were rolling off the tongue. Ellie’s 400 metres performance in the Aquatic Centre was equalled only by the drama of the men’s 100 metres, when Britain’s Jonnie Peacock sprinted away from the overwhelming favourite, Oscar Pistorius.

Captivating: Ellie Simmonds (right) was one of the Paralympians who stunned us again and again

Captivating: Ellie Simmonds (right) was one of the Paralympians who stunned us again and again

Thrillers: David Weir and Sarah Storey (below) delighted us during the Paralympics

Thrillers: David Weir and Sarah Storey (below) delighted us during the Paralympics

Sarah Storey

Sarah Storey

The Paralympics were no longer worthy and esoteric. In less than two weeks, they had moved into the mainstream. It was perhaps the most significant advance that British sport made all year. And when they ended, in lachrymose lashings of Coldplay, the melancholy began in earnest.

I remember leaving the Olympic Park on that Sunday evening and boarding the Docklands Light Railway. Across the carriage, in their distinctive purple and red suits, sat a couple of volunteers. They were middle-aged, tired and a little emotional. Unpaid and largely unheeded, they had worked throughout the Olympics, then the Paralympics. Save for a single basketball game, they had seen little live sport.

On that final day, they had completed a double shift, getting up at 6.15 for the early start. It was almost midnight, and their faces were grey with fatigue. Tomorrow, they would become civilians again. They were not looking forward to it. ‘So you enjoyed the Games’ I asked. They smiled at the foolish question. ‘Enjoyed it’ said the man. He shook his head, slowly. ‘It was the best time of our lives.’ In those few words, he had given us the perfect summary of our Olympic summer.

Murray delivers the dream

There were times during 2012 when the bare facts read like tall stories. Andy Murray, Wimbledon finalist, was one thing. Andy Murray, Olympic gold medallist, was another.

And Andy Murray, US Open champion, the first Briton to win a Grand Slam since 1936, was of another order entirely. Yet in the course of his staggering summer, he delivered all three. In a normal era, it would have been a sensational achievement. But in an era containing the finest players the game has known, it was a feat beyond compare.

Enlarge

What a year: Andy Murray memorably won the US Open title in November

What a year: Andy Murray memorably won the US Open title in November

Unless the comparison happened to be with the deeds of Bradley Wiggins. His victory in the time trial at the London Games was his fourth Olympic gold. He also happened to win the Tour de France.

It goes without saying that he was the first Briton ever to do so; the first to scale the mountains, to charge through the valleys, to endure the sprints and the time trials and to ride into Paris in a yellow jersey. He covered 2,173.75 miles and devastated the most formidable field his sport could assemble.

To have a Murray or a Wiggins once in a lifetime would represent lavish prosperity. To have two such athletes in the same astonishing year was sporting wealth beyond measure.

Pietersen keeps finding new ways to steal the limelight

One abiding image of the celebrations which followed England’s series victory in India is of Kevin Pietersen grinning at the camera, the autographs of his team-mates scrawled all over his shirt front. The picture screamed ‘reintegration’, which was presumably what Pietersen wanted to convey.

It was a momentous year for English cricket. A great captain, Andrew Strauss, made way for the youthful Alastair Cook, who also has the whiff of greatness about him. And England lost a hard-fought home series to a formidable South Africa team, which made their subsequent triumph in the sub-continent the more remarkable.

Yet throughout the year, Pietersen had invaded the headlines to the discomfort of the cricket authorities. There was his texting to South African opponents — ‘provocative’ but not ‘derogatory’, he insisted. There were his crass public statements, the indiscreet jabber which invited retribution.

Whirlwind: Currently there is tranquility between England and Kevin Pietersen... will it last

Whirlwind: Currently there is tranquility between England and Kevin Pietersen… will it last

And there was his unfortunate habit of listening only to bad advice, taking only unsound decisions and repeatedly allowing ego to over-rule his dubious judgement.

But there was also his talent, that glittering ability which allowed him — in Colombo, at Headingley and, most dramatically, in Mumbai — to play, in a calendar year, three of the finest innings the modern game has known.

It was that glorious talent which saw him reintegrated into a team that sorely need his gifts. At the moment, all is tranquil between Pietersen and England. We must hope that tranquillity reigns in 2013.

Greed and ugliness 3

Drama and Sense 2

At the last gasp, Manchester City won the most dramatic title contest the Premier League has seen. Still more improbably, Chelsea emerged from the Champions League clutching the trophy with the big ears.

Another massive TV deal was signed, prompting agents to order fresh stocks of Krug. And England chose an immensely capable and experienced man to be their new manager.

There were those who declared it an excellent year for football. And they were wrong.

For the most urgent priority of the English game was the pursuit of the bottom line. The Premier League was the richest, therefore, it had to be the best.

Racism was ugly, of course, but it was a problem for less enlightened countries. We have no truck with that kind of thing here. Likewise hooliganism; all in the past. And yet, the cases began to accumulate. The Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair was shabbily treated by Liverpool.

Shambolic: Liverpool's treatment of the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra race row was poor

Shambolic: Liverpool's treatment of the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra race row was poor

The John Terry-Anton Ferdinand scandal dragged on through much of the year and was appallingly handled by just about everybody involved.

The moral leadership was non-existent, the consequences deeply damaging.

Meanwhile, crowd chants grew uglier, more threatening, and grounds suddenly seemed less safe than they should be.

Good things were happening, too, and the appointment of Roy Hodgson was sane and sensible. He may not have sufficiently talented players and the Brazil World Cup is surely a hopeless quest. Yet he represents an important step in the right direction.

The national game — so wealthy, so confident yet so little loved — needs many such steps in 2013.

David Weir hits out at New Year Honours system

Weir having to win more medals to get recognised! Paralympic hero hits out at New Year Honours system after CBE

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UPDATED:

11:31 GMT, 29 December 2012

Six-time gold medallist David Weir has suggested Paralympians have to work harder to earn recognition than their non-disabled counterparts.

Weir has been recognised with a CBE for winning four gold medals at this summer's London Games, but the wheelchair athlete was not among the five sporting dames and knights created.

Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins and British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford have both been knighted, as has sailor Ben Ainslie, with Paralympic cyclist Sarah Storey becoming a dame after taking her gold medal tally to 11 to match Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson's record.

Golden boy: David Weir won four events at London 2012

Golden boy: David Weir won four events at London 2012

British rowing performance director David Tanner has also been knighted.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Weir said: 'I am absolutely honoured to receive this award.

'I would have been disappointed if Sarah Storey had not been made a dame because she deserves it with 11 gold medals.

'It's a weird one how they choose it. Sometimes it seems that Paralympians have to win lots and lots of medals to get a damehood or a knighthood.

What a summer: Weir played his part in a brilliant period for British sport

What a summer: Weir played his part in a brilliant period for British sport

'Kelly Holmes was made a dame when she won two gold medals, but it seems we have to get into double figures to get it.

'Sarah Storey should have been awarded this years ago, and I just feel that sometimes we are left out perhaps because we are not in the public eye.

'It is a bit strange, but I am just honoured to get anything from the Queen for doing a sport I love.'

Weir is the only disabled athlete among five CBEs with only two Paralympians receiving OBEs.

From Mo Farah to Bradley Wiggins, relive the most sensational festival of sport

When London lit up the world! From magical Mo to wonderful Wiggo, relive the most sensational festival of sport

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UPDATED:

01:13 GMT, 29 December 2012

We lit the flame and we lit up the world. Those were the simple words of Lord Coe, his neck flexing with exhilaration in front of a global television audience of three-quarters of a billion. He had promised at the opening ceremony a fortnight earlier that we would do it right, and so we had.

The Games of the XXX Olympiad were closing in front of our spoilt eyes and we were left to reflect on the truth that this was perhaps the best thing Britain had done since winning the Second World War.

The transformational qualities of sport were clear on London's streets. A year before, so-called student protestors had urinated on the statue of Winston Churchill. But in the summer of 2012 Britain rediscovered her senses. People were smiling. Football's tribal enmities had yielded to a more generous sporting spirit. Conversation even broke out on the Tube. This carnival gripped the nation.

Just Momentous: Farah wins the 5,000m final to complete his golden double

Just Momentous: Farah wins the 5,000m final to complete his golden
double

So much so that, after today's New Year's Honours announcement, an unprecedented four sporting notables await the Queen's sword tip. Arise Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Bradley Wiggins, knights of sailing and cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford and Sir David Tanner, the foremost performance directors of their era, from cycling and rowing. Then there is Paralympic swimming and cycling gold medallist Sarah Storey, who becomes a dame. There are 78 high-achievers on the special Olympic and Paralympic list.

I had always been a believer in London's potential to deliver a glorious Games. Coe, with a team led by his meticulous No 2 Paul Deighton, was assiduous. Anyway, the country is habitually good at staging great events. The British public generally come round to such occasions when they arrive.

This particular slow-burner was coming at us from Greece. I saw the torch lit in that ludicrous ceremony concocted by the Nazis for the 1936 Berlin Games among the splendid old stones of ancient Olympia.

A week later, we witnessed the rain briefly lifting at the home of the modern Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, as the torch was passed from Greek hands to British. I reported from seat 10D on board BA flight 2012 as the flame shared the front row with the Princess Royal on our journey to the UK.

But it was in Bath on May 22 that my belief in the project became total. It was the day I ran with the Olympic flame. People were standing a dozen deep on either side of the road. Jason Gardener, relay gold medallist from the Athens Games, was a fellow runner. His eyes were moist at seeing all ages and conditions of men and women cheering and waving on the journey through the handsome streets of his home city.

Golden boys: Farah poses with Bolt at the medal ceremony

Golden boys: Farah poses with Bolt at the medal ceremony

This scene was replicated virtually every mile of the torch's progress up and down the land until the night of July 27 arrived. The Opening Ceremony was upon us.

What Danny Boyle had dreamed up in his crazy and creative mind set the whole jaunty mood. Occasionally left-leaning, yes, but it was a phantasmagoria that was undeniably bonkers and brilliant. It was unashamedly made for a home audience – Mr Bean and Only Fools and Horses featured, the first with memorable piano humour. The rest of the world was simply welcome to take from it what they could.

The rehearsal and the schedule contained no mention of the Queen's involvement nor any reference to Churchill. Those extra dimensions were revealed only at the last moment. My first-edition piece, filed as the ceremony was starting, excoriated Boyle for the omissions and was followed by a call to the office: 'Where I say there was no mention of Churchill, can we change that to barely a mention'

The Queen staged surely the greatest coup de theatre in British artistic history when she turned round to say 'Good evening, Mr Bond' from her Buckingham Palace desk. She then supposedly descended to the stadium by parachute, which prompted two American ladies watching the beach volleyball to marvel at the 86-year-old monarch. 'Did you see the Opening Ceremony' one said to the other. 'They even got the Queen to jump out of a helicopter. Can you imagine Obama doing that'

Her Maj looked tired by the time the British team – led by Sir Chris Hoy – paraded in. It had been a long but uplifting night. Coe's speech about the power of sport struck me as sensationally good. He hailed a celebration of 'what is best about mankind'. He went on: 'There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity of spirit that makes it irresistible.

On the Boyle: a stunning opening ceremony by the film director set the tone for the greatest Games in history

On the Boyle: a stunning opening ceremony by the film director set the tone for the greatest Games in history

'To the athletes gathered here, I say that to you is given something which is precious and irreplaceable – to run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.' Then Lord Coe (or Mr Swan, as he called himself by adopting his grandmother's maiden name during his Games stay at the Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane) unwound with Lady Coe ahead of the feast of sport that was to come.

And so it all began. It is difficult at a few months' detachment to think just how much we anticipated Mark Cavendish getting us off to a victorious start in the road race. The rest of the world ganged up in an anyone-but-Cav pact. Our dreams dashed.

But it hardly mattered to the party. The route was lined at every yard out to the Surrey hills and back into London. And when Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the women's race the next day we had lift-off – sort of.

But, still, after four days of sport there was no gold to show for the most lavishly funded British team of all time. The success of Beijing four years before – 19 golds, 47 medals – hung heavily. Don't panic, I wrote, our strongest sports had yet to reach the medal stages.

So it was a relief to be at a windless Dorney Lake at 12.24pm on day five to see two girls in a boat deliver that elusive bullion. Heather Stanning, a Royal Artillery captain, and Helen Glover, a PE teacher, led from the start of their pairs final and commanded the race. The team had found the key to Fort Knox.

Hampton Court that afternoon provided perhaps the most famous image of the Games: Tour de France winner Wiggins, long legs crossed and flashing a Churchillian victory sign, on a gaudy throne after winning the road race. He now had seven Olympic medals – more than any Brit including Sir Steve Redgrave. Again, the crowds were immense. We were witnessing the symbiosis of participants and supporters. Enthusiasm fed success, and success fed enthusiasm.

Famous image: Bradley Wiggins on teh throne

Famous image: Bradley Wiggins on teh throne

was our greatest in Games history when we factor in that the numerical high point in 1908 came in a different world altogether. The first of three London-hosted Games lasted 187 days and a third of all competitors were British. It was the tug-of-war era.

Here the superb volunteers had the delight to announce one night as we headed out of the Park: 'Ladies and gentleman, Yorkshire is leading Australia in the medal table.' Nobody can say we do not love sport. Heats were sold out. Sports we hardly understood against nations we could barely find on a map played to full houses. No other country could boast that, including Australia, whose Sydney Olympics in 2000 were generally acknowledged until this summer as the best. The enthusiasm for the Paralympics, complete with a new host of heroes such as Storey, Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds, underlined the point.

You could soak in the atmosphere for free on the road routes or in Hyde Park. Or for the licence fee. Bad news, so often the staple of newspapers, barely existed. Yes, the performance of Ye Shiwen, the 16-year-old Chinese swimming sensation, came under scrutiny. But, suspicions raised, the story faded. A handful of badminton matches were thrown by nations looking to aid their chances in the knockout stages but the stink did not linger.

There were the occasional British disappointments, notably the underperformance of our own swimming team. I sensed the mood in the camp was desperately wrong at the World Championships the year before. They were so downbeat that we can just be thankful they didn't drown.

Swim sensation: China's Ye Shiwen

Swim sensation: China's Ye Shiwen

But if swimming failed, gymnastics, equestrianism, boxing all sparkled. Cycling and rowing inevitably soared. Athletics, though falling below the target set by the Mr Tough Love, aka head coach Charles van Commenee, provided the Games' most memorable evening of British endeavour. It was such a Super Saturday that long jumper Greg Rutherford is in danger of becoming a pub quiz question of the future: who was the third Briton to win a gold medal on the night that Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah both won Rutherford's misfortune, if we can call it that, was to reach the peak of his athletics career in the 44 minutes during which two of the Olympics' poster people reached theirs.

Heptathlon gold was virtually assured by the time Ennis started her final event, the 800 metres, turning it into a double lap of honour. Farah's run to 10,000m glory was packed with tension until his big eyes popped out of his head as he crossed the line first.

That day, Britain won six golds in all, the others coming through our peerless coxless four, women's double scullers and our team pursuit women in the Velodrome. It was gluttony.

We returned to see Farah go for the double the following weekend. Tired after the heats of the 5,000m, the crowd hit one of the two most ear-splitting sounds I heard all Games. The other was in the enclosed ExCeL for the boxing, first for Ireland's Katie Taylor and then our own gold medallist, the open, friendly, Nandos-loving Nicola Adams. But back to Farah. The crescendo of noise that helped push him into the front in the final lap and to withstand the late challenge of Dejen Gebremeskel and Thomas Longosiwa broke the photo-finish equipment. The vibrating stadium was too much for the technology. Thankfully, the winning margin was evident to all 80,000 loud and happy souls in the stands. It was one of the single highlights of the whole Games.

My favourite day was the longest day, the middle Sunday. Up before dawn, Tube to Waterloo, train to Weymouth, taxi to the sailing venue. Ainslie was in the latest fight of his life for a gold medal, this time against a red-bearded Viking called Jonas Hogh-Christensen.

Flying the flag: Ben Ainslie

Flying the flag: Ben Ainslie

Our greatest sailor was being frustrated by the tactics of his rivals. 'You don't want to make me angry,' he told them. After losing the first six races to Hogh-Christensen, he wrenched his way back into contention. In the final race, he went in and then out of gold-medal position. Jacques Rogge, IOC president and himself a former Finn sailor, is an avowed Ainslie admirer. He based his whole day around being free to watch the last act of this particular drama, in which Ainslie dramatically prevailed. A sword's tap awaits the sailor's shoulder.

I run to the waiting taxi, queue for the train then squeeze into a seat for more than an hour. Tube to Stratford, walk into the stadium at 9.20pm. Usain Bolt is off at 9.50pm.

The 100m final – that most stomach-turning event of the whole Games – has arrived. Bolt, who finally admitted he had been struggling with injuries we had reported, was up against his training partner Yohan Blake.

Blake, undefeated all year, had beaten the great man in the Jamaican trials. To what extent was Bolt limited by his back-related travails Could the younger man pull off the bravest heist A reputation was on the line more than a world record was in prospect. Bolt delivered gold in 9.63sec.

If only he had been fit. If only he did not party. If only he gave up the junk food. This is a man who lives by his own rules, a point reinforced when he added the 200m and the 4x100m titles to his c.v. He declared himself a legend and nobody could argue otherwise.

Before the Olympics finished, Bolt was acting out Farah's 'Mobot' celebration. Farah was striking the 'Lightning Bolt' pose. Fun and brilliance conjoined.

In the Velodrome, Victoria Pendleton took her golden leave, hopefully happy in that sometimes mixed-up mind of hers. Laura Trott emerged as cycling's new queen, an image given a glitzy frisson when she was pictured in love with her golden team-mate Jason Kenny. The oak-legged master Hoy was emotional on the podium as he bade goodbye. His second gold of the Games, which was won in the keirin, meant he had won more Olympic golds than anyone else in British history, with six to Redgrave's five.

Cycling's new queen: Great Britain's Laura Trott

Cycling's new queen: Great Britain's Laura Trott

Hoy, a modest man of immodest ability, still reckoned that Redgrave's quintet achieved in five separate Games, conferring longevity, is the greater achievement. I am inclined to agree.

There was so much to marvel at here. We almost forget that Michael Phelps left the pool with a career total of 18 Olympic gold medals – and that's because, in London, the American won a paucity of honours by his standards: just the four golds and two silvers.

We saw Kenya's David Rudisha win the 800m like a horse running against men. Coe hailed him as the star of the Games. It was a touching compliment from one of the greatest middle-distance runners of the ages to another. We revelled in our own heroes and heroines: Katherine Grainger, in the double sculls, winning a gold at last after three silvers. Charlotte Dujardin emerging as a double star with gold in the equestrian team event and the dressage. Nick Skelton winning gold at the age of 54 in the team showjumping.

There was triathlon's Brownlee brothers – Alistair coolly strolling through the line with the Union Flag on his back to take gold; Jonny collecting his bronze once he had been treated for exhaustion. Andy Murray's joy at Wimbledon, where there had been tears just weeks before. Jade Jones, funded by a whip-round in her home town of Flint in North Wales, winning taekwondo gold. Peter Wilson, a tall chap with a nice sense of humour, taking the shooting honours in the double trap. Tom Daley, with a diving bronze just a year after his father and mentor died, doing well to make the headlines among the golden hordes.

Too soon, the show closed on this revitalised eastern edge of the capital. Rio was charged with bringing the youth of the world together for the XXXI Olympics four years hence – no pressure there. The more prosaic debate over legacy commitments took centre stage.

Tears were shed as the flame was extinguished. Pride abounded.

London had lit up the world.

Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah will have to wait to be Dame and Sir – Des Kelly

After a year of plenty, Sir MoBot, Sir Andy and Dame Jess will have to wait their turn

|

UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 29 December 2012

The compilation of the honours list has always been something of a murky affair. The perception lingers that a nudge here, a wink there and a generous donation to the right account does no harm at all to one’s prospects of a knighthood.

Trot along to one of the Prime Minister’s barbecues in Buckinghamshire and the chances of the Queen pinning something on your lapel at Buckingham Palace a few months later also appear to improve somewhat.

Civil servants, politicians and bankers pick up gongs for doing little more than their day job, while, according to a report earlier this year by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, it still remains the case that not enough ‘normal people’ are being recognised on the list.

Ben Ainslie

Bradley Wiggins

Sirs: Ben Ainslie (left) and Bradley Wiggins have been awarded knighthoods after their sporting successes

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But the relationship between sport and honours has always been more straightforward. It is essentially a meritocracy, stripped of politicking and intrigue. If you win, you are rewarded. Glories equal honour. Medals equal gongs. In fact, we don’t want our sports stars to be ‘normal’ at all.

The trouble this year is they were too extraordinary. The gold rush of a glorious Olympic summer where Team GB collected 29 gold medals led Downing Street to issue curmudgeonly briefings about how there would be an honours ‘cutback’ even before another 34 golds at the Paralympics.

Faced with the prospect of nearly half the audience at the Sports Personality Of The Year Awards being called Dame This or Sir That, the Prime Minister called a halt. As a result there is no Sir MoBot. No Sir Andy of Dunblane. No Dame Jessica of the Steel City, either.

In any other year, this illustrious trio would have been guaranteed the very highest accolades of the land for their inspirational performances.

They not only succeeded in their chosen fields, their golden glow was reflected across the nation as they brought the country together for moments of collective joy and patriotism, the intensity of which has rarely been seen before.

But on this occasion, they have had to drop down a rung or two, ‘victims’ of our incredible sporting success, if we dare use such a word in this context.

Mo Farah

Double gold: Mo Farah

Jessica Ennis

Poster girl: Jessica Ennis

Andy Murray

Main man: Andy Murray

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When Kelly Holmes took double gold on the track in Athens in 2004, she was made a Dame without argument. When Mo Farah achieved a similar feat in London this summer winning the 5,000m and 10,000m, he was handed a citation for a CBE instead.

Paralympian Sarah Storey is a Dame, but all-conquering wheelchair athlete David Weir is not named a knight, he has a CBE. There are only so many knights and dames a nation can accommodate, even on a special Olympic honours list. But it is not a snub to miss out and it would churlish to regard it as such.

Some of the sports stars not being called to the Palace this year have long careers ahead and there is time enough for knighthoods, honours and accolades. What might seem like a contradiction now can surely be addressed in lists ahead.

At least cycling has two knights of the road; Sir Dave Brailsford for his pursuit of excellence with the British team and Sir Bradley Wiggins, or Sir Wiggo as he will surely be known, for his historic Tour de France triumph and Olympic gold. There are two Sirs on the waves as well, with David Tanner, performance director of Britain’s rowing team and sailor Ben Ainslie collecting knighthoods.

But being a history-maker is not necessarily enough. When Andy Murray finally landed Britain’s first men’s Grand Slam tennis title in 76 years at the US Open during an era when men’s tennis is as strong as it has ever been, he still admitted it ‘would be a little rash’ to give him a knighthood. The committee agreed, handing him an OBE.

The idea that he has been denied,
though, is preposterous. Murray is 25. To make him Sir Andy at 25 would
be premature in the extreme. Fred Perry, Britain’s last great men’s
tennis champion, was never given an honour. However it is certainly a
far cry from the list of 2003 when Tim Henman was given an OBE just to
‘add interest’ to the list.

Making her mark: Sarah Storey was named a Dame in the New Year Honours list

Making her mark: Sarah Storey was named a Dame in the New Year Honours list

In truth, no athlete, sportsman or sportswoman competes with these ceremonial honours in mind. The distinction that truly counts is the medal hung around their neck on the podium or the trophy they receive at the climax to a tournament.

Sports stars receive honours enough, and most of them would happily cede their place on the list to a charity worker or a member of the Armed Forces if that were the choice. But as a nation we enjoy having sporting heroes and it is a fine problem to have too many for once.

Who said the honours system was ever consistent, anyway Want the proof Some inherit a title because their father was made a Baronet, like Sir Mark Thatcher. And then there’s Sir Jimmy Savile. I could go on.

Sports Personality of the Year 2012: Who will win?

Sports Personality of the Year: The shortlist is in… but who do our writers think will win

PUBLISHED:

12:13 GMT, 27 November 2012

|

UPDATED:

15:34 GMT, 27 November 2012

Names in the frame…

Nicola Adams (boxing)
Ben Ainslie (sailing)
Jessica Ennis (athletics)
Mo Farah (athletics)
Katherine Grainger (rowing)
Sir Chris Hoy (cycling)
Rory McIlroy (golf)
Andy Murray (tennis)
Ellie Simmonds (swimming)
Sarah Storey (cycling)
David Weir (athletics)
Bradley Wiggins (cycling)

Winner announced on Sunday, December 16

This year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award is as wide open as it has ever been following 12 months of remarkable achievement from our British athletes.

A stellar year for British sport has seen countless timeless moments created by our sporting stars at the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as some stunning winning performances from Brits in annual events such as the Tour de France and the US Open.

All 12 nominees are in with a genuine chance of winning and, as such, next month's vote promises to be the most hotly contested since the award's inauguration in 1954.

With the countdown to the showpiece on December 16 well under way, Sportsmail's panel of experts give their views on who they think should win the coveted award…

Last time out: Mark Cavendish (centre) collects the 2011 award ahead of second-placed Darren Clarke (left) and third-placed Mo Farah (right)

Last time out: Mark Cavendish (centre) collects the 2011 award ahead of second-placed Darren Clarke (left) and third-placed Mo Farah (right)

JONATHAN McEVOY

Bradley Wiggins

The greatest natural
extrovert in British Olympic sport since Daley Thompson. Both could
offend – Daley turned up in a tracksuit to accept his BBC award and then
swore live on air – but you can’t deny they are both personalities.

Even without his Olympic gold medal,
Wiggins would be the supreme candidate for becoming the first Briton to
win the Tour de France, and to do so clean.

Stellar year: Wiggins celebrates winning the Tour de France

Stellar year: Wiggins celebrates winning the Tour de France

Ben Ainslie, who has just retired
from Olympic competition, is the only Briton to have won four
consecutive individual gold medals and, therefore, my second choice.
Andy Murray is my third.

Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Trott,
two of only four women to claim two golds at one Games, are both unlucky
not to be on the list. So are triathlete Alistair Brownlee and sprint
cyclist Jason Kenny. Their omissions reinforce how 2012 was the year of
unsurpassed sporting achievement.

LAURA WILLIAMSON

David Weir

Until the Paralympic Games I would have voted for Bradley Wiggins or Mo Farah – but then the Weirwolf came along. I watched all of his races in London and still can’t comprehend the drive and mental toughness, never mind the physical toll, that took him to four gold medals.

His performances and personality –
particularly the change that occurred when he put on his red helmet,
ready to race – opened my eyes to the intense, challenging sport of
wheelchair racing. And I would hazard a guess I’m not the only one.

Weirwolf: David Weir won four gold medals at the Paralympic Games

Weirwolf: David Weir won four gold medals at the Paralympic Games

After the debacle of last year, when not a single woman made the shortlist, I was really pleased to see Nicola Adams made the final 12. Personality The woman defines the word. So too, though, do double gold medallist Laura Trott and Ian Poulter, the inspiration behind Europe’s Ryder Cup win. I was surprised Trott missed out, in particular.

MIKE DICKSON

Mo Farah

In this toughest ever ballot it has to be an individual who triumphed without the assistance of team-mates.

Therefore, as the most memorable face of
Britain’s greatest ever sports event, Mo Farah wins by a short head
from Andy Murray, whose historic triumphs give him second by a short
head from Bradley Wiggins.

Historic double: Farah won both the 5,000m and 10,000m at London 2012

Historic double: Farah won both the 5,000m and 10,000m at London 2012

Ben Ainslie, Katherine Grainger and Rory McIlroy would have made an outstanding triumvirate in any other year. Ian Poulter and Alastair Brownlee are ridiculously unlucky not to have made the shortlist.

CHARLES SALE

Bradley Wiggins

Wiggins would be a worthy
winner even in this stellar year for Sports Personality. His Tour de
France success was even more of an achievement for a Briton than Andy
Murray’s first Grand Slam title at the US Open, which would have been
the landslide choice in almost every other year, as would Mo Farah’s
5,000m and 10,000m Olympic double.

The most glaring omission is golfer
Ian Poulter after his unbeaten heroics at Medinah brought that most
unlikely of Ryder Cup triumphs for Europe. And Laura Trott’s two cycling
gold medals should have been rewarded with a place in the final 12,
especially in this girl power year.

Unlucky: Laura Trott and Ian Poulter both missed out on nominations

Unlucky: Laura Trott and Ian Poulter both missed out on nominations

Unlucky: Laura Trott and Ian Poulter both missed out on nominations

PAUL NEWMAN

Bradley Wiggins

It’s the toughest decision ever faced in a Sports Personality of the Year competition but for me Bradley Wiggins just edges out Andy Murray as the No 1 choice.

What these two have on the other top quality runners in the field is that they both won Olympic Gold AND another major competition in their sport. Murray’s triumph over Roger Federer in the Olympics at Wimbledon followed by his first major title in New York makes him the runner-up for me but for Wiggins to win the Tour de France and then win Olympic Gold a few days afterwards, not to mention trying to help Mark Cavendish win his, makes him the winner.

After such a vintage year someone has to miss out but I think Ian Poulter is unlucky not to make the short-list after the Miracle of Medina.

Golden girl: Ennis

Golden girl: Ennis

Legend: Hoy

Legend: Hoy

Thumbs up: Grainger

Thumbs up: Grainger

CHRIS FOY

Andy Murray

The Scot should be recognised for his feat in ending the perennial wait for a British winner of a tennis Major title. While Bradley Wiggins was similarly ground-breaking in his Tour de France triumph, there was less of an all-consuming national obsession with that particular title.

Murray has had to carry the burden of the country’s desperation to anoint a successor to the legendary Fred Perry and he achieved the elusive target in the greatest era his sport has ever witnessed. Not only that, in the time of Federer and Nadal and Djokovic, he also rose to the challenge of claiming an Olympic gold in the iconic setting of Wimbledon’s Centre Court. For this double achievement, Murray deserves to shade the vote ahead of Wiggins and Month Farah.

Sealed with a kiss: Murray lifts the US Open title

Sealed with a kiss: Murray lifts the US Open title

What do you think

Tell us who you think should win and why by leaving a comment below…

One man who should have made the short-list is Ian Poulter. While Rory McIlroy made the cut for his individual feats as world No 1 and USPGA champion, it was Poulter who stood tall in the cauldron of an ‘away’ Ryder Cup, to spark a comeback success which gripped the nation.

Sports Personality of the Year: Nominees name winner

We'd crown Wiggo! The British heroes of 2012 pick their winner for SPOTY

|

UPDATED:

23:04 GMT, 26 November 2012

If it was simply down to the 12 nominees, Bradley Wiggins would win the most eagerly anticipated BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in its 59-year history.

If it was just down to Mo Farah, however, he would walk off with the prize himself.

The list of nominees was released on Monday, and Wiggins was selected by five of them — Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy, Ben Ainslie, Sarah Storey and David Weir — as the person they would most like to see win the award.

Nicola Adams

NICOLA ADAMS: ‘I would love to see a woman win, so it would be great for Jessica Ennis to be recognised.’

Mo Farah

MO FARAH: ‘I want to win it myself.’

Jessica Ennis

JESSICA ENNIS: ‘I’d love to see Mo Farah because he’s a good friend, but there are the Paralympians too. If you’re really pushing me, I’d have to say Bradley Wiggins because of the Tour de France and the Olympic gold — but only just!’

Rory McIlroy

RORY MCILROY: ‘I’m a big tennis fan so I would like to see Andy Murray win. Andy winning gold at the Olympics was huge, and that was a stepping stone to what he achieved in the US Open. A monkey off his back, a great player and hopefully the first of many Grand Slam titles for him.’

The field for the 2012 award has been extended in recognition of an incredible year of sport. The shortlist was chosen by a panel of respected figures across the world of sport, including Sportsmail’s Head of Sport, Lee Clayton.

The nominees were asked the question, ‘Who would be your Sports Personality winner’ during interviews for this week’s Radio Times.

Wiggins is the bookies’ favourite, ahead of Farah. The middle- distance runner and Ennis trailed Wiggins, with two votes each from among their peers.

Ben Ainslie

BEN AINSLIE: ‘It’s a very tough call, but I would say Bradley Wiggins deserves it most. Before now he’s almost been hidden in the shadows a bit behind Chris Hoy. But this was really his year.’

Katherine Grainger

KATHERINE GRAINGER: ‘This year was all about girl power. Jessica Ennis would be a worthy winner. She’s an all-round athlete at her peak and well deserving of the honour.’

Chris Hoy

SIR CHRIS HOY: ‘It should be Bradley Wiggins, but I say that cringing, because then I think about Andy Murray, then about Katherine Grainger…’

Andy Murray

ANDY MURRAY: ‘It’s been an amazing year for British sport and it’s tough to pick a winner. I hope it will be a celebration of the year as a whole and of what we, as a nation, have achieved.’

Golfer Rory McIlroy is the only person shortlisted not to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal.

Andy Murray, who is third favourite, made the list after he followed his Olympic gold by becoming the first British male tennis player to win a Grand Slam in 76 years.

After last year’s furore, when not a single sportswoman made the shortlist, five of the 12 this year are female. It is an issue Ennis feels is particularly important.

She said: ‘I’ve had loads of letters from young girls and that’s a really positive thing. They are interested in athletics after watching the Olympic Games. Further down the line we will see what a big impact 2012 had on women’s sport.’

Ellie Simmonds

ELLIE SIMMONDS: ‘I would pick Mo Farah, for his sheer determination and fantastic achievement of pulling off the double gold.’

David Weir

DAVID WEIR: ‘I’d love to see Bradley Wiggins win, but it would be great if someone from the Paralympics was recognised — Ellie Simmonds or myself.’

Sarah Storey

SARAH STOREY: ‘For me, the vote should be behind Bradley Wiggins. To see him win the Tour de France and Olympic double before we started competing inspired us. Just being on the list with him is an honour.’

Bradley Wiggins

BRADLEY WIGGINS: The favourite among his peers didn’t pick a winner, but he did take the chance to have a pop at Lance Armstrong. He said: ‘Lance Armstrong Well, look what’s happened to him. As it stands, I’ve won more Tours than him!’

The Final Count

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater
chaired the selection panel and said: ‘It was difficult to leave off
Olympians and Paralympians of the calibre of Charlotte Dujardin,
Alistair Brownlee, Jade Jones, Sophie Christiansen, Laura Trott, Jonnie
Peacock, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton, to name just a few

‘The panel also reflected long and
hard on the heroics of stars from other sports such as (golfer) Ian
Poulter during the “Miracle of Medinah”, the brilliance of (boxer) Carl
Froch and the “magnificent seven” from champion jockey Richard Hughes.’

The winner will be chosen by a public vote during the ceremony at London’s ExCeL Arena on December 16.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist revealed

Five women in race for BBC Sports Personality of the Year award as Olympic and Paralympic stars dominate shortlist

|

UPDATED:

19:55 GMT, 26 November 2012

Names in the frame…

Nicola Adams (boxing)
Ben Ainslie (sailing)
Jessica Ennis (athletics)
Mo Farah (athletics)
Katherine Grainger (rowing)
Sir Chris Hoy (cycling)
Rory McIlroy (golf)
Andy Murray (tennis)
Ellie Simmonds (swimming)
Sarah Storey (cycling)
David Weir (athletics)
Bradley Wiggins (cycling)

*The winner will be announced on Sunday, December 16

Five women are among the 12 contenders for this year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year award after a gold-coated 2012 for Great Britain.

In an Olympic and Paralympic-dominated list, Games poster-girl Jessica Ennis will be up against double-gold winner Mo Farah, as well as rower Katherine Grainger.

After last year’s outcry at the lack of women on the list, the BBC is sure to attract less criticism with this more balanced selection.

In 2011 both Keri-Anne Payne and
Rebecca Adlington won gold medals in the World Championships, and yet
neither featured on the shortlist. Though some women have tended to be
included as a rule, in both 2009 and 2010 there were only two female
athletes on the list.

There have also been only 13 female
winners in the history of the award, and only three since the turn of
the century. The last to win was Zara Phillips, who took home the trophy
in 2006 after winning gold in the World Equestrian Games.

This year Ellie Simmonds, Nicola
Adams and Sarah Storey will make an appearance alongside Ennis and
Grainger, while on the male side three of last year’s finalists will
also return.

Andy Murray, Mo Farah and Rory
McIlroy have all made the list for the second year running, and they are
joined by Bradley Wiggins, David Weir, Sir Chris Hoy and Ben Ainslie.

Going for gold: Bradley Wiggins won the time trial at the Olympics

On top of the world: Wiggins celebrates his Tour de France victory

On top of the world: Bradley Wiggins rode time-trial glory (left) at the Olympics after his Tour de France win

Storming home: Mo Farah celebrates winning the 5000m final at the Olympics

Storming home: Mo Farah celebrates winning the 5000m final at the Olympics before doing the Mobot (below)

Storming home: Mo Farah celebrates winning the 5000m final at the Olympics

Reach for the stars: Jessica Ennis landed the Olympic heptathlon in the summer

Reach for the stars: Jessica Ennis landed the Olympic heptathlon in the summer

Reach for the stars: Jessica Ennis landed the Olympic heptathlon in the summer

TODAY'S POLL

Who should win Sports Personality of the Year

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Bradley Wiggins

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Daily Mail Head of Sport Lee Clayton was among the judges who selected the shortlist.

Adams may be a newcomer as far as
Olympic sport is concerned, but she has made quite an impact during her
short time in the public eye. The 30-year-old flyweight from Leeds
became the first ever female Olympic boxing champion this year,
overcoming Ren Cancan of China in the historic final.

Ainslie on the other hand is anything
but a newcomer. He carried the flag at the Olympic closing ceremony
after becoming the first sailor
to win medals in five different Olympics after taking his fourth gold
in the Finn class.

Packing a punch: Nicola Adams won an army of fans during her Olympic triumph in the ring

Packing a punch: Nicola Adams won an army of fans during her Olympic triumph in the ring

Packing a punch: Nicola Adams won an army of fans during her Olympic triumph in the ring

King of the waves: Ben Ainslie enjoyed another superb Olympics

King of the waves: Ben Ainslie enjoyed another superb Olympics

King of the waves: Ben Ainslie enjoyed another superb Olympics
Last 10 SPOTY winners…

2011: Mark Cavendish (cycling)
2010: Tony McCoy (horse racing)
2009: Ryan Giggs (football)
2008: Chris Hoy (cycling)
2007: Joe Calzaghe (boxing)
2006: Zara Phillips (show jumping)
2005: Andrew Flintoff (cricket)
2004: Kelly Holmes (athletics)
2003: Johnny Wilkinson (rugby)
2002: Paula Radcliffe (marathon)

Hoy is another veteran. He has
already won Sports Personality of the Year once, after bringing three
gold medals home from Beijing in 2008. This year he surpassed Sir Steve
Redgrave to become the most successful British Olympian ever. He added
two more gold medals to his record in the team sprint and the keirin,
giving him six gold and one silver overall in the Games.

It’s the third time Ennis has made an
appearance on the shortlist, and having taken third place twice, it may
be third time lucky for Britain’s golden girl. The heptathlete narrowly
missed out on being named Female Athlete of the Year earlier in
November.

Ennis not only won gold in the
Olympics, but did so in spectacular fashion. Her time in the 100m
hurdles would have been enough to win her gold in the individual hurdles
in Beijing four years ago, and was also a new British record. She then
went on to achieve personal bests in both the 200m and the javelin,
which was previously considered her weak spot.

Grainger is another familiar name.
The Scot took silver in the double sculls in three consecutive Olympic
Games, but after teaming up with Anna Watkins in 2010, the duo became
unbeatable, taking the last two world titles. They won their 2012
Olympic heat in a time that was nearly five seconds below the previous
Olympic record. They went on to win gold, with Grainger becoming the
most successful female British rower of all time.

The facial expression of Mo Farah as
he crossed the line in the 5,000m has become an iconic image of the
summer Games. 2012 was the most successful year of the Somalia-born
runner’s career and he is now one of only seven men to have won both the
5,000 and 10,000m at the Olympic Games. Sebastian Coe described Farah
as arguably being the best British runner of all time, and a poll of
2,000 people named his gold medal double win the most inspiring moment
of the Games.

Double delight: Katherine Grainger (left) won the double sculls with Anna Watkins

Double delight: Katherine Grainger (left) won the double sculls with Anna Watkins

Double delight: Katherine Grainger (left) won the double sculls with Anna Watkins

Speed demon: Sir Chris Hoy won two more golds at the London Games

Speed demon: Sir Chris Hoy won two more golds at the London Games

Speed demon: Sir Chris Hoy won two more golds at the London Games

McIlroy is another man who had his finest year in 2012. The Northern-Irish golfer became the world
No 1 for the first time, and had 15 top 10 finishes. He took his fifth
title of the year in Dubai, after having put in a winning performance
for Europe in the Ryder Cup. He looks set to be named as the
Player of the Year by the US PGA Tour, after he became the youngest
multiple major champion since Seve Ballesteros in 1980 by winning the PGA Championship.

Reaction from the shortlised stars

Rory McIlroy: 'It is a real honour to be nominated two years in a row. With it being an Olympic year, and with so many outstanding achievements in British sport in 2012, the voting is sure to go right down to the wire.'

Nicola Adams: 'I didn't expect to be nominated, let along make the short list. There are so many big names on the list, and so many others who didn't make it, that I am just happy to be part of it.

'I have watched Sports Personality of the Year for years and I never once thought I would be part of it. I would have been happy enough with my gold medal. Everything that is happening now is just a bonus.'

It has been a long wait for Murray,
and there were many who claimed he would never manage it. But the Scot
proved all his doubters wrong in 2012 with a stellar year of success. He
may have missed out on the Wimbledon title, but having made the final
at all was a huge leap for Murray.

After a crushing defeat at the hands
of Roger Federer, he took his revenge only weeks later in the Olympic
final where he overcame the Swiss with a straight sets victory. He also
found time to team up with Laura Robson for a silver medal performance
in the doubles, and went on to claim the first Grand Slam title of his
career at Flushing Meadows.

Simmonds was another athlete who
returned home from the summer Games with a double gold. The 18-year-old
Paralympian set a world record time during her victory in both the 200m
individual medley and the 400m S6 freestyle. She had to settle for
silver in the 100m S6 freestyle, despite having set a Paralympic record
in the qualifying rounds, as well as bagging a bronze in the 50m
freestyle.

Storey now has 22 Paralympic medals
to her name, after winning gold in all four of her events this summer.
The former swimmer, now cyclist, won her 11th gold in the C4-5 road
race, finishing minutes before her competitors. This final victory made
her the most successful British Paralympian of the modern era.

Unstoppable: Cyclist Sarah Storey was one of the stars of the Paralympics

Unstoppable: Cyclist Sarah Storey was one of the stars of the Paralympics

Unstoppable: Cyclist Sarah Storey was one of the stars of the Paralympics

Loud and proud: David Weir was astonishing at the Paralympics

Loud and proud: David Weir was astonishing at the Paralympics

Loud and proud: David Weir was astonishing at the Paralympics

Making a splash: Ellie Simmonds lit up the Paralympic pool

Making a splash: Ellie Simmonds lit up the Paralympic pool

Weir also emerged from London with
four gold medals around his neck, triumphing in the 800m, 1,500m, and
5,000m, as well as the marathon. The 33-year-old wheelchair racer became
the greatest of all time with his marathon victory, after a sprint
finish that wowed the crowds.

This year was perhaps the best in
British history for cycling, thanks to Wiggins. The 32-year-old became
the first Briton to win the Tour de France, and followed it immediately
with an Olympic gold in the time trial, his seventh Olympic medal
overall. He is also the only rider in history to win Paris-Nice, the
Tour of Romandy and Criterium du Dauphine in one season.

It is unfortunate for some of those on the list that this was such a stunning year for British sport.

Had Murray taken his first Slam in
any other year, he could have been assured of a good shot at the trophy,
much like Wiggins and his triumph in the Tour de France. Instead, they
will be in contention with the superstars of the London Games, though
the shortlist has been increased from 10 to 12 in recognition of the
talent that has been on show in 2012.

Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater
said that the selection process had been particularly hard this year,
with the panel having to leave off athletes such as Ian Poulter, Carl
Froch and Richard Hughes, who would have been front-runners in any other
year.

Double glory: Andy Murray triumphed at the Olympics - followed by becoming the first British man to win a Slam in 76 years at the US Open

Double glory: Andy Murray triumphed at the Olympics – followed by becoming the first British man to win a Slam in 76 years at the US Open

Double glory: Andy Murray triumphed at the Olympics - followed by becoming the first British man to win a Slam in 76 years at the US Open

Poulter was the Ryder Cup hero in
2012, after leading a comeback that saw Europe overcome their American
rivals. Richard Hughes also achieved something quite remarkable this
year, in the space of only a few hours. The Irishman rode to seven
victories in one afternoon, equalling a record set by Frankie Dettori in
1996.

Last year’s winner Mark
Cavendish also failed to make the shortlist, as did a few other notable
athletes such as Jonnie Peacock, the Paralympic who stormed to victory
in the T44 100m. Charlotte Dujardin, Laura Trott and Jade Jones are also
absent, despite all taking gold at the Games.

Other gold medals who missed out on a
spot include long-jumper Greg Rutherford, triathlon star Alistair
Brownlee, Paralympic equestrian Sophie Christiansen, wheelchair racer
Hannah Cockcroft and cyclist Jason Kenny.

'We had already extended the
shortlist for the main award this year from 10 to 12, but at times we
all wished it was nearer 15 or 20,' said Slater. 'If we ever needed
reminding just how special a sporting year it has been, then the list of
those sportspeople who did not make the final 12 is testament to that.'

Silver special: Rory McIlroy lifts the US PGA trophy at Kiawah Island

Silver special: Rory McIlroy lifts the US PGA trophy at Kiawah Island

Team effort: McIlroy (left) was also part of the European side that won the Ryder Cup

Team effort: McIlroy (left) was also part of the European side that won the Ryder Cup

Olympic stars line up for remake of TV show Superstars

Superstars is back! Olympic heroes Farah, Brownlee and Grainger sign-up for one-off revival of classic TV show

|

UPDATED:

16:59 GMT, 14 November 2012

Britain's Olympic stars are to take part in one-off revival of 1970s cult television show Superstars.

Gold medalists Mo Farah, Katherine Grainger, Jade Jones and Alistair Brownlee will be among 16 competitors who will tackle eight events: track races over 100m and 800m, archery, javelin, a 50m swim, a
kayak race, a cycling hill climb and the challenges in the gym tests.

Gold standard: Double Olympic champion Mo Farah

Gold standard: Double Olympic champion Mo Farah

Just champion: Katherine Grainger

Just champion: Katherine Grainger

REMEMBERING SUPERSTARS
Alan Fraser, Sportsmail writer

Worth the licence fee alone! Sportsmail remembers Superstars as Olympic stars sign-up for one-off revival of TV classic

'Never mind Newsnight-gate, who would not willingly pay their licence fee just for the sight of Wayne Rooney doing a Kevin Keegan and falling off his bike while racing against the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray, Rory McIlroy, Johnny Wilkinson, Ben Ainslie and the like'

Click here to read more….

Farah told the Telegraph: 'After a hard season it will be nice to compete in a
different environment. Some of the events are quite new to me which will
make it all the more interesting.'

Jonathan Brownlee – who took bronze to his brother's gold at London 2012
– added: 'Having Alistair taking part in Superstars as well doesn't faze
me. This is not triathlon, there will be no team tactics, but we will
be competitive – let the best brother win.'

Swimmer Rebecca Adlington will
mentor the athletes in the pool and pundits will include athletes Iwan
Thomas and Denise Lewis.

The new show will have a best male and female all-rounder and will be hosted by Gabby Logan.

Cult status: Kevin Keegan crashes in original TV show of Superstars

Cult status: Kevin Keegan crashes in original TV show of Superstars

Stellar cast: Bobby Moore and Joe Bugner were among the original Superstars

Stellar cast: Bobby Moore and Joe Bugner were among the original Superstars

Target man: Trevor Brooking keeps a close eye on Tony Currie (centre)

Target man: Trevor Brooking keeps a close eye on Tony Currie (centre)

GOLD STANDARD COMPETITORS

The full list: Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee, Mo Farah, Robbie Grabarz, Michael Jamieson, Anthony Joshua, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Peter Wilson, Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Laura Bechtolsheimer, Gemma Gibbons, Helen Glover, Katherine Grainger, Jade Jones and Christine Ohuruogo.

Logan – whose footballer father Terry Yorath took part in the original
show – said: 'We have an incredible line-up of Olympic heroes. What an
opportunity for them to compete against each other across a range of
diverse physical challenges.'

The original American show was devised in America by figure skater Dick
Button and it became a hit TV show in the UK after airing first in
December 1973. David Vine was the main presenter for 12 years. David
Hemery won the first UK title, beating a field that included Bobby
Moore, Joe Bugner and Tony Jacklin.

Superstars

Leading man: David Vine was the main presenter for 12 years

superstars

Strong man: Former F1 driver Jackie Stewart

superstars

geoff capes
GRAHAM POLL: DISQUALIFYING KELLY HOLMES WAS NERVE-WRACKING

Being just touching distance from Sir Steve Redgrave as he strains every sinew to urge his team to beat Roger Black's in a gym rowing event was memorable.

Disqualifying Dame Kelly Holmes for illegal dips on the parallel bars was perhaps the most nerve-wracking decision I made, including ones on the football field.

Those and many more memories come flooding back at the news that Superstars is back for a one-off special being filmed, as I refereed the event the last time it was filmed.

Back then it was a team-based format when Redgrave and Holmes contested the final after eliminating the teams captained by Mike Catt and Roger Black.

To have spent an entire week with such legends was a treat; to see them compete, looking for any edge they could over rivals was insightful, motivational and a little surreal.

I remember Redgrave pointing out that Holmes should not be allowed to practice her long jump as the event had started.

This time Mo Farah is one of the athletes involved and I can’t wait to see the programme.

It started as a must-watch when I was a schoolboy and remained so when I was in the privileged position of seeing events up close as the referee.m

Sportsmail remembers Superstars as it announces one-off return

Worth the licence fee alone! Sportsmail remembers Superstars as Olympic stars sign-up for one-off revival of TV classic

|

UPDATED:

16:36 GMT, 14 November 2012

Never mind Newsnight-gate, who would not willingly pay their licence fee just for the sight of Wayne Rooney doing a Kevin Keegan and falling off his bike while racing against the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray, Rory McIlroy, Johnny Wilkinson, Ben Ainslie and the like

Well that’s not going to happen, not in the multi-million football world where players are investments as much as sporting icons.

But BBC’s one-off revival of Superstars this Christmas, featuring a host of British Olympic medallists, could see Mo Farah capsizing his kayak, as you do, or Christine Ohuruogu drowning.

Cult status: Kevin Keegan crashes in original TV show of Superstars

Cult status: Kevin Keegan crashes in original TV show of Superstars

SUPERSTARS RETURN

Britain's Olympic stars are to take part in one-off revival of 1970s cult television show Superstars.

Gold medalists Mo Farah, Katherine Grainger, Jade Jones and Alistair Brownlee will be among 16 competitors who will tackle eight events: track races over 100m and 800m, archery, javelin, a 50m swim, a kayak race, a cycling hill climb and the challenges in the gym tests.

Click here to read more

As severe as the latter may sound, it
was always the fish-out-of-water potential for disaster from one
sportsman trying to master an alien sport that appealed to the
programme’s large following during the 1970s and 1980s.

The defining moment of the show came
in 1976 at, of all places, Bracknell when Keegan, still very much in his
pomp with Liverpool and England, crashed his bicycle during an episode
of European Superstars.

Despite suffering nasty cuts and
abrasions, he insisted on racing again and finishing second on the way
to ultimate victory via a win in the steeplechase.

Viewers loved and admired Keegan for
his courage while laughing at his embarrassment. At least I did and I
think most of the audience felt the same.

The mixture of humour, of great
sportsmen demonstrating frailty and of the participation (at least in
the early days) of some giants of sport proved a potent ratings mixture.

Bobby Moore, no less, Jackie Stewart,
Tony Jacklin and Welsh rugby legend Barry John were included in the
first line up in 1973, though no-one got near David Hemery who became
more famous for the Superstars performances than his victory in the 400
metres hurdles at the Mexico Olympics five years earlier.

Mick Channon, John Conteh, James
Hunt, Gareth Edwards, Daley Thompson and Geoff Hurst – it was very much a
male dominated environment at that time – were others who found
themselves in that place without a puddle having to explain themselves
breathlessly to David Vine.

Stellar cast: Bobby Moore, Joe Bugner and Geoff Capes were among the original Superstars

Stellar cast: Bobby Moore, Joe Bugner and Geoff Capes were among the original Superstars

geoff capes
GOLD STANDARD COMPETITORS

The full list: Alastair and Jonathan
Brownlee, Mo Farah, Robbie Grabarz, Michael Jamieson, Anthony Joshua,
Andrew Triggs Hodge, Peter Wilson, Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Laura
Bechtolsheimer, Gemma Gibbons, Helen Glover, Katherine Grainger, Jade
Jones and Christine Ohuruogo.

But the real stars of that era were
judo master Brian ‘Squat Thrust’ Jacks and World Superstars champion
Brian Hooper, pool vaulter turned demented kayaker. At least that is how
I remember his thrashing through the water leaving everyone in his
wake.

Part of the attraction was the fierce
competition. While some were prepared to play for laughs, many took it
very seriously indeed. I seem to remember Daley Thompson placing a watch
under his body to monitor his squat thrusts, a move which prompted
Jacks, the King of the Squats, to put an orange in the same place.

Who, like me, remembers Malcolm
MacDonald running the 100 metres in an astonishing 10.9 seconds only to
prove an even more impressive marksman despite having never previously
fired a pistol

Who could forget big scarey boxer Joe Bugner being frightened to attempt the water jump during the steeplechase

Or renowned hellraiser Stan Bowles
literally shooting himself in the foot. Apparently, Bowles and James
Hunt, another notiorious party animal, had been out the night before.

Count me in: Double Olympic champion Mo Farah will be one of those to take part

Count me in: Double Olympic champion Mo Farah will be one of those to take part

Great memories from the days when
live sport was limited almost to the three Rs – racing, rugby and
(w)restling – and Superstars provided some action for the starved sports
nut.

Maybe that diminished sports
portfolio explains part of the reason that why the Beeb have resurrected
this oldie. That and the success of the Olympics, of course.

There are no fewer than 10 gold
medallists taking part in the Christmas special. But most will not
remain household names in the years to come.