When they were young: The 12 heroes who made us feel proud in 2012
23:56 GMT, 15 December 2012
00:27 GMT, 16 December 2012
Tonight the BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be announced to an audience expected to top 15 million viewers.
And in a year of extraordinary sporting achievement, at London 2012 and beyond, the final 12 contenders represent the cream of British sport.
NICK HARRIS and MARTHA KELNER talked to the people who know them best to find out what they were like … when they were young.
1. SIR CHRIS HOY
Nominated: For winning two gold medals at London 2012, in the team sprint and keirin, to become the British sportsman with the most Olympic gold medals in history (six), overtaking Sir Steve Redgrave’s five.
Future knight: A young Chris Hoy shows off one of his first prizes
Parents: David and Carol. Mum Carol says: ‘I am just as proud of the way Chris conducts himself when he loses, when things don’t go to plan or an opponent comes up with a moment of brilliance.
'Chris is able to handle winning and losing equally and I value that in life.
'When I hear Chris described as a true “Olympian”, that means more to me than all of the medals and honours.
Olympic glory: Hoy celebrates winning Gold in the men's team sprint final. He also won the keirin
'He was brought up simply to do things as well as possible and treat other people properly, whatever the circumstances.’
Plans for future: ‘I’m definitely not going to Rio,’ says Hoy. ‘Nothing will top London.’ He hopes to cap his career on a high at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
2. ELLIE SIMMONDS
Nominated: For winning gold in the 400m freestyle, one of the most thrilling swimming races of the summer, and another gold in the 200m individual medley to add to her two Paralympic titles won at Beijing in 2008.
Parents: Steve and Val. ‘It sometimes gets a bit surreal, you have to give yourself a pinch,’ says Val of the moment she saw her teenage daughter collecting her fourth Paralympic gold medal.
Golden girl: Ellie Simonds' infectious smile was there to see at the age of seven. She went on to pick up two golds in 2012 with the 400m freestyle final considered to be one of the most exciting races of the Games
She remembers having to say goodbye when Ellie went away before Beijing for a month’s training camp in South Africa.
‘She was only 12, my little baby, but she’s very mature and loved it.’
If Ellie does not win Sports Personality, Val is backing Mo Farah.
‘I’m a keen athletics fan and used to watch it all the time before swimming took over our lives,’ she says.
Plans for the future: ‘She certainly has plenty more years to carry on swimming and get on the Sports Personality list again,’ says Val.
3. DAVID WEIR
Nominated: For winning three wheelchair racing gold medals on the track this summer, before topping it by becoming road race champion, the final gold of the Games and his sixth Paralympic medal in total. He has also won the London marathon six times.
Parents: Jackie and David, a former soldier from Belfast, brought up David, who was born with a severing of the spinal cord, in a similar way to his three brothers.
Triple gold: David Weir aged 11 (right) and in action during this summer celebrated his success with his mum in a quiet pub
‘I never mollycoddled them,’ says Jackie.
‘We brought him up to expect taunts and told him not to worry because all kids get them, don’t they’ David would join in with everything.
‘When his mates had a kickaround, David would go in goal and use his sticks to save the ball,’ says Jackie.
He celebrated winning his fourth gold in London by having a quiet drink with his mum in their local pub in Richmond.
Plans for the future: He is not thinking about defending his titles in Rio in 2016 yet but the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are on the agenda.
4. BEN AINSLIE
Nominated: For winning a fourth Olympic gold this summer to confirm his status as the world’s greatest ever sailor.
Parents: Roddy and Susan. Roddy was a renowned sea captain and Ben was bred for maritime glory, given his first taste of sailing on a family holiday to Cornwall when he was eight.
Incredible career: Ben Ainslie has announced his Olympic retirement admitting he will never beat the buzz of Weymouth
/12/16/article-2248817-145DA7F8000005DC-915_306x454.jpg” width=”306″ height=”454″ alt=”Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008″ class=”blkBorder” />
Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and in her youth (right)
They knew how upset I was when we didn’t win gold at Beijing. All a parent wants is for their child to be happy, and seeing me so unhappy was very difficult for them.’
Plans for future: Says she remains undecided whether to attempt to win a fifth Olympic medal and second gold in Rio.
‘I’m certainly not burning my bridges and deciding that I won’t be at the next Olympics. I’m looking forward to getting back in a boat in 2013 and making a fresh start.’
6. ANDY MURRAY
Nominated: For becoming the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam singles title (the US Open), having just won Olympic singles gold at Wimbledon, just a few weeks after losing on the same court against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men’s singles final. Also won Olympic doubles silver.
Emotional year: After bursting into tears at Wimbledon, Andy Murray went on to grab gold in London 2012 before picking up his first grand slam
Parents: Judy and Will. Judy has been a consistent presence at courtside throughout his career after both parents, despite their divorce, helped him in his early years, funding his attendance at a Barcelona academy.
‘Both of my parents made a lot of sacrifices to give me and [brother] Jamie the opportunity to play tennis,’ he says.
Plans for future: Will certainly want to defend his Olympic crown in Rio in 2016 if fit and healthy but the demands of the singles circuit — and four Slams each year — will take precedence before then, starting with the Australian Open early in 2013.
7. BRADLEY WIGGINS
Nominated: For becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France and for winning the time trial gold medal at London 2012.
Road racer: A two-year-old Bradley Wiggins on his first ever bike
Parents: Linda and Gary. His father was an Australian cyclist who drank heavily, was violent to Linda and who abandoned the family when Wiggins was two.
Linda supported her son’s fledgling career, taking him to Paris to see the Tour when he was 13.
When he won, he pointed to Linda and said: ‘Some dreams do come true. My old mum over there
Her son has just won the Tour de France!’
Hot favourite: Wiggins is the bookie's favourite to scoop Sports Personality of the Year after winning Olympic gold as well as the Tour de France
Plans for future: Wiggins has said he wants to return to track cycling for the 2016 Games in Rio. Whether he goes for another Tour de France triumph depends on whether Team Sky pick him or Chris Froome as their No 1.
8. NICOLA ADAMS
Nominated: For becoming the first-ever female Olympic boxing champion, a feat she celebrated with a chicken wrap at Nando’s.
Record breaker: Nicola Adams became the ever female boxing champion this summer
Parents: Mother Dee and father Innocent split up when Nicola was a child. When Dee could not get a babysitter, she took Nicola and brother Kurtis to an aerobics class.
Nicola, who had watched videos of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier with her dad, joined in with a boxing class instead.
‘It has been really tough for Nicola being a female boxer,’ says Dee. ‘I thought, “She’s doing this for her country and she isn’t getting the recognition she deserves”. But now she has made history. It is amazing. I am just so proud of her.’
Plans for the future: Back in training with TeamGB boxers in Sheffield. Next up are the European Championships, then the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where women’s boxing is debuting. Plans to defend her Olympic title in Rio.
9. JESSICA ENNIS
Nominated for: Coping with the pressure of being the face of the Games and dominating the Olympic heptathlon, before sealing victory in the 800m.
Super Saturday: Ennis played a huge role in one of the greatest nights of sport this country has ever seen
Parents: Vinnie and Alison took Jessica and younger sister Carmel to an athletics summer camp when she was 10.
‘I think they just wanted to get rid of me for a bit,’ jokes Jessica. But while Carmel did not like running, Jess thrived.
‘She always wanted to stand on the top of a podium and I’m just so proud of her,’ says Vinnie.
‘After all those years of going to low-key meetings when she was little with the rain and the snow and the early mornings, it has all come together and it’s just brilliant.’
Plans for the future: A spring wedding to childhood sweetheart Andy Hill means a delayed start to the 2013 outdoor season. Has not ruled out defending her heptathlon title in Rio but may switch to the hurdles.
10. RORY MCILROY
Nominated: For winning his second major and being part of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team.
Parents: Father Gerry McIlroy worked 100 hours a week and mother Rosie did night shifts at a factory in their native Holywood, in Northern Ireland, to save to send Rory to competitions in the US as a junior.
In form: Rory McIlroy bagged his second major while playing his part in a hugely emotional Ryder Cup
It has paid off already but there could be a further 200,000 windfall for Gerry and three friends, who bet 400 at 500-1 that the then 15-year-old would win The Open before 2014.
‘It’s ridiculous really, isn’t it’ says Gerry. ‘You realise you can make more money on the golf tour in one week than some people make in a lifetime.’
Plans for the future: Greg Norman believes Rory McIlroy is more likely to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major wins than Tiger Woods. Golf will feature at Rio 2016, so McIlroy could add Olympic gold to his impressive medal cabinet.
11. SARAH STOREY
Nominated: For winning four cycling gold medals in the Paralympics, including Britain’s first gold of those Games in the Velodrome, having narrowly missed selection to compete for Team GB at the Olympics.
Ruling the roads: Storey picked up a phenomenal four gold medals at the Paralympics
Parents: John and Mary Bailey, who wore T-shirts at the Games listing every gold medal their daughter had ever won in swimming and cycling, as well as being ‘the Under-14s Cheshire table tennis champion’.
Storey was born without a functioning left hand and was bullied at school.
‘When I was at my lowest, my parents told me to keep looking to the future, that everything would be all right,’ she says. ‘It was the best lesson anyone could have taught me.’
Plans for future: Says that defending her four Paralympic titles at Rio 2016 would be ‘the ultimate dream’.
12. MO FARAH
Nominated: For winning a historic Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m distance double in London and making the Mo-bot his trademark.
Parents: Father Muktar left Somalia as a young man to settle in London and met Mo’s mother, Amran, during a holiday in his homeland.
Party time: Mo Farah (aged 14 – right) created one of the most iconic images of London 2012
They married and brought Mo to London as an eight-year-old for the opportunity of a more prosperous life after weighing up the cost of parting him from his twin brother, Hassan, and two older brothers who remained in Somalia.
When Mo arrived at Feltham Community College as an 11-year-old he was barely able to speak English.
‘I was giving a javelin lesson and trying to instill some discipline into the boys,’ says PE teacher, Alan Watkinson.
‘I walked on to the field and Mo was swinging on the crossbar.’ Mo went the wrong way round the athletics track the first time he ran — but soon found his direction.
Plans for the future: Could run the marathon as well as the 10,000m at Rio in 2016, but that would be a tough challenge.