Tag Archives: nicola

Jessica Ennis and Sir Dave Brailsford were among a number of British Olympians honoured by the Queen

Ennis, Rutherford, Adams and Rowsell lead the Olympic honours list while cycling boss Brailsford becomes a knight at the Palace

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Honoured: Jessica Ennis (second from left) Greg Rutherford (centre) and Nicola Adams (second from right) pose with Beefeaters after being honoured by the Queen for their heroics during London 2012

Honoured: Jessica Ennis (above, right) receives her CBE medal from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and poses before entering (below)

Honoured: Jessica Ennis (above, right) receives her CBE medal from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and poses before entering (below)

Jessica Ennis

Pride: Ennis shows off her newly awarded CBE

Pride: Ennis shows off her newly awarded CBE

Today’s ceremony will see honours go to a collection of athletes who became household names with their achievements as part of Team GB.

Greg Rutherford, 26, who landed a gold in the long jump, spoke of his excitement at being awarded the MBE. He said: 'I am very excited and very nervous as well.

Knighted: British Cycling performance director and head of Team Sky Sir David Brailsford (right) receives his knighthood from the Queen

Knighted: British Cycling performance director and head of Team Sky Sir David Brailsford (above, right) receives his knighthood from the Queen and stands with his family before entering the Palace (below)

Sir David Brailsford

'It’s not every day you get to do something like this and meet the Queen. The heart’s racing a bit.

'You dream of doing well at an Olympics, especially a home Olympics, and then the things that come along after that are just absolutely out of this world.

'I don’t think truly you can imagine these sorts of things happening and being awarded by the Queen. It really is just extraordinary.'

Sportsmail's own: Joanna Rowsell speaks with the Queen after becoming a Member of the British Empire

Sportsmail's own: Joanna Rowsell speaks with the Queen after becoming a Member of the British Empire

MBE: Sportsmail columnist Joanna Rowsell (right) speaks with the Queen after becoming a Member of the British Empire

Greg Rutherford

Nicola Adams

Collecting more medals Long jumper Greg Rutherford (left) and boxer Nicola Adams each picked up an MBE

Boxing gold medal winner Nicola Adams, 30, is also being awarded an MBE.

The flyweight, who outclassed China’s Ren Cancan to win, said: 'I’m over the moon, really excited.'

Wearing Kurt Geiger shoes and a black Phillip Lim jacket, she added: 'It isn’t every day you get to come to the palace and receive the MBE.

Sealed with a handshake: Double Olympic champion Jason Kenny collects his OBE

Sealed with a handshake: Double Olympic champion Jason Kenny collects his OBE

'I am over the moon and can’t believe I’m receiving this today.'

Double 2012 cycling champion Jason Kenny, 24, is to collected his OBE with team-mate and team pursuit gold medallist Joanna Rowsell, 24.

Ecstatic: Sir David shows his emotions while chatting to the Queen

Ecstatic: Sir David shows his emotions while chatting to the Queen

British Cycling performance director and principal of Team Sky, David Brailsford, will receive his knighthood.

Sir David led Britain to eight cycling gold medals for a second successive Olympics and Team Sky to an historic one-two in the Tour de France.

23 years own: Former England and Glamorgan cricketer Robert Croft was awarded an MBE

23 years own: Former England and Glamorgan cricketer Robert Croft was awarded an MBE

He receives his knighthood for services to cycling and the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Cricketer Robert Croft, who retired during the summer, will pick up his MBE following a 23-year career with England and Glamorgan.

Nigel Adkins sacking by Southampton and replacement with Mauricio Pochettino is lunacy

Adkins sacking is lunacy but Saints must heed warning from Chelsea fans' abuse

James Coney, Money Mail Editor


15:56 GMT, 18 January 2013



17:43 GMT, 18 January 2013

You’d find it hard to find one
football fan, let alone any who support Southampton, who does not
believe the sacking of Nigel Adkins is complete madness.

had a terrible first few games back in the top flight. But even though
they lost eight in 10 matches there were few fans who lost confidence Adkins would get the team out of trouble.

the faith was rewarded. Saints have lost two in just 12 games,
including draws at Chelsea and Stoke and at home to Arsenal.

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Even though the side are just above the relegation places, there are few who don’t believe the only way is up.

The players clearly respect Adkins and the fans adore him.

club chairman Nicola Cortese has sacked the manager of a team, who just
two days drew, and almost beat, the champions of Europe.

has been replaced with a man few will have heard of, and by all
accounts speaks little English. His managerial career hardly sparkles –
getting Espanyol a couple of mid-table finishes before being sacked when
they were at the foot of La Liga.

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago


Read all the news of an unbelievable day on the south coast in MailOnline:

Southampton SACK Adkins and replace him with Pochettino just two days after drawing away at European champions Chelsea

Meet the man Southampton hope will keep them up… Pochettino unveiled but he can't speak English and admits he has been researching the Saints 'for several weeks'!

From sinner to Saint: Watch Southampton boss Pochettino foul Owen in the box

what is going through the head of every Saints fan will be this: Please
don’t let this be the start of another managerial merry-go-round.

Saints had 12 managers in eight years
before being relegated. Many of these were hopeless, some went on to
bigger clubs.

But sacking one who had gained two promotions in
consecutive seasons and had bought and built a talented team which
players bright attractive football seems like lunacy.

was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. Three times the travelling
support sung Adkins’ name – even when the side were trailing 2-0 at half

By contrast I
was struck by the horrible atmosphere among the Chelsea fans who despise
the sacking of their former manager. The abuse and animosity is having a
detrimental effect on the team’s home performances.

It’s a warning Saints supporters should heed.

I suspect there will now be the same level of anger towards the chairman by the Saints fans.
if that starts affecting performances then a side which was slowly
climbing the table could quickly fall back in to trouble.

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

Arsenal to talk with Southampton about Luke Shaw transfer

EXCLUSIVE: Arsenal step up pursuit of 5m-rated Shaw with talks to be held TODAY



22:24 GMT, 31 December 2012

If Arsene Wenger has anything to do with it, Luke Shaw will be Arsenal’s next Saint.

Gunners officials will use New Year's Day's trip to St Mary’s to hold talks with Southampton in their attempts to land the 17-year-old left back.

Arsenal will make an offer for Shaw this month and it is hoped Tuesday’s discussions will pave the way for the club to end their two-year quest to land the latest jewel to emerge from Southampton’s ultra-productive academy.

Shaw thing: Luke Shaw has been tipped to be better than Gareth Bale

Shaw thing: Luke Shaw has been tipped to be better than Gareth Bale

'We produce some technically-gifted players but not as many as Southampton,' said Wenger. 'It is exceptional what they have done. The three wingers [Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott] and Luke Shaw, that is a good way to study what they have done.

'The question of Southampton’s academy set-up is a very good one because they have done a fabulous job.

'Why It is down to the quality of their scouting, the quality of their coaching and education. They have fantastic scouting.'

Wenger and his chief scout Steve
Rowley knew they had to have Shaw – tipped to be even better than Bale –
as soon as they first saw him.

Arsenal saw a summer offer rejected by Saints chairman Nicola Cortese,
who knows the youngster will soon be worth a small fortune. Chelsea, are
also keen.

Whether he can resist Arsenal’s
advances this month remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that
Shaw is an England regular in the making.

Should Shaw arrive at the Emirates Stadium, he will not be short of a friendly face willing to take him under their wing.

Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain both make emotional first returns to the club that gave them their big break on Tuesday.

The elder of the two's impact on the Gunners has been well-documented this season – but his fellow former Saint has had to bide his time.

Saints made it easy: Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both taken the step into international football after moving to Arsenal from their first club Southampton

Saints made it easy: Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both taken the step into international football after moving to Arsenal from their first club Southampton

An exceptional first campaign with Arsenal resulted in him gatecrashing England’s Euro 2012 squad. But only now are we starting to see the form that persuaded Roy Hodgson to take a punt on Oxlade-Chamberlain in the summer.

The 19-year-old was excellent in Saturday’s win over Newcastle, scoring his first Premier League goal of the season in the 7-3 win.

And his return to the form that made him England’s joker in the pack last summer does not surprise his manager, who insists he knew Oxlade-Chamberlain would be a top player the minute he set eyes on him.

‘The first time I watched him was on tape, he was at that level where he played he looked lightning quick and a good dribbler as well and we like that,’ said Wenger.

‘I had enthusiastic reports about him and we sent different people and everybody said he is something special.

‘When I saw him you could see in his movement and first touch that he had something special. ‘

Southampton appoint World Cup winner Terry Paine as honorary president

Club legend, World Cup winner: Paine appointed Southampton's honorary president


12:37 GMT, 26 December 2012



12:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

Southampton have today revealed their record appearance-maker Terry Paine is to become their honorary president.

Paine was a member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning squad and played 815 times for Saints between 1957 and 1974.

He has now been appointed honorary president and will take up the role on January 1, with a remit to act as an ambassador for Saints both at home and abroad.

Hero: Terry Paine (right) is Southampton's record appearance holder

Hero: Terry Paine (right) is Southampton's record appearance holder

The 73-year-old, who lives in South Africa, will be presented with his new title by the family of ex-Southampton manager Ted Bates on New Year's Day before the Arsenal game.

'It is a great honour for me to be named honorary president of Southampton Football Club,' Paine told the club's official website.

World Cup winner: Paine (right) was part of England's victorious 1966 team

World Cup winner: Paine (right) was part of England's victorious 1966 team

Executive chairman Nicola Cortese, who was recently accused of not wanting 'anything to do with anything that happened before he turned up' by club stalwart Matthew Le Tissier, said: 'I can think of no one more deserving of this prestigious title than Terry Paine.'

Nick Harris Mo Farah can push TV Superstars to a longer run

Farah and Co can push TV Superstars to a longer run


22:35 GMT, 22 December 2012



23:02 GMT, 22 December 2012

The BBC hope their festive Olympic
Superstars show will lead to a longer-term revival of the hit programme
of the 1970s and 1980s – although one of the London 2012 athletes who
features in the Christmas special jokes that he will be hiding in
embarrassment when it is screened.

Superstars became a family favourite
as top sportsmen from Formula One's James Hunt to judo star Brian Jacks
took part and through famous moments such as Kevin Keegan crashing his

Paddle power: Mo Farah has fun in the kayak head-to-head with Peter Wilson

Paddle power: Mo Farah has fun in the kayak head-to-head with Peter Wilson

The Olympic special, to be screened next
Saturday evening, pits 16 heroes from London 2012 against each other –
from double gold-winning runner Mo Farah to boxing's Nicola Adams and
Anthony Joshua, triathlon's Brownlee brothers, rower Kath Grainger and
equestrian pin-up Laura Bechtolsheimer among others.

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Peter Wilson, who won shooting gold in
the double trap, said: 'Once it's screened, I'm never going to live down
how bad I was! I'll probably buy myself a one-way ticket to Timbuktu to
avoid the embarrassment.'

Wilson says that for 'must watch TV', fans should tune in for the kayak head-to-head between himself and Farah.

'The two worst kayakers against each other,' he said.

'I went out like a dingbat and ended up against the wall and Mo went the wrong way, about 18 times, then capsized.'

In other events, Wilson reveals, 'me and the javelin did not see eye to eye and the 800 metres was so tough it felt like my lungs were bleeding. My sport is all about standing still and I was up against these supreme athletes like the Brownlees, Robbie Grabarz and Anthony Joshua.'

The BBC paid the competitors undisclosed fees for taking part. 'But it wasn't about the money, it was great fun to do, even if it won't be for me to watch it,' said Wilson.

The show's main presenter, Gabby Logan, confirmed that the BBC want further shows.

'Hopefully, we're trying to do another one so we want contestants to tell their friends that they all had a great time and keep the calibre of the guests really high profile,' she said.

'This will stand the show in good stead to hopefully re-establish Superstars again. I think it would be great to mix Olympians up with other sportspeople – rugby, footballers and cricketers. That would be the nub of it.'

Selling: Carl Hester open to offers

Selling: Carl Hester open to offers

Hester still a seller

Olympic dressage gold medallist Carl Hester is still hopeful of selling wonder horse Valegro, despite dismissing reports that a Saudi prince wanted to buy the gelding for 20million as 'complete and utter fantasy'.

Hester joked that he 'spotted a few billionaires' watching as Charlotte Dujardin triumphed again on Valegro at Olympia last week.

He says he remains hopeful of 'developments in the New Year' and would be open to British investors securing the horse for Dujardin, who won two gold medals on him at London 2012, to ride towards Rio in four years' time.

Leeds fans urge new owners to reveal details of 17m takeover

Leeds United supporters have greeted the takeover of their club by the Dubaibased GFH Capital with cautious optimism but say they want more details about the new owners' finances, background and plans.

GFHC now own 100 per cent of Leeds in a takeover that sources say cost 17million up front to buy out chairman Ken Bates and other shareholders, and will cost a further 17m when Leeds win promotion. GFHC and Leeds have declined to confirm any financial details.

Bates was unpopular with some fans but will remain as chairman until the end of this season and then become president.

Neither GFHC nor Leeds have said whether he will be paid for those roles.

End of an era: Ken Bates

End of an era: Ken Bates

Dan Moylan, of the Square Ball fanzine, said: 'On the one hand I'm happy because, to all intents and purposes, it's the end of Ken Bates's tenure and the new owners are saying all the right things. On the other hand we now need the new owners to flesh out their plans with hard detail and tell us what the plan is in a year, two years, three years. They say they want Leeds to be sustainable. How will that happen'

The takeover does not include GFHC buying Leeds's Elland Road stadium or the Thorp Arch training ground, both of which are owned by unknown parties through an offshore firm in the Caribbean.

John Boocock, founder of the Leeds List group, the oldest online community of Leeds fans, which started in 1996, said: 'We want to know where the cash to buy the club came from, why the company that controls the club will not be registered in Britain where we can examine the accounts, but in the Cayman Islands, and what money precisely will be available in January.

'We weren't too impressed by the claim that the squad is good enough when we get players back from injury.'

Gary Cooper, head of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, said: 'The new owners did well in saying they want to work with the fans and the community and a lot of the supporter base will buy into that.

'We're led to believe we'll get the chance soon to meet the owners and we hope we will be able to get answers to all our outstanding questions.'

Asked for further details about the GFHC takeover, a Leeds spokesman told Inside Sport: 'The new owners answered all the questions they were asked at their press conference and won't be answering any more.'

Heather Watson aiming to stay top Brit

Looking after No 1… Ambitious Watson aiming to stay top Brit



23:23 GMT, 21 December 2012

To gain an appreciation of how Heather Watson has become such a nuggety tennis player it helps to visit her at the place where it all started.

The IMG/Nick Bollettieri Academy on Florida's Gulf Coast is a very long way from her native Guernsey, but it was here that she arrived as a 12-year-old armed with a racket bag, a few mementoes of home and dreams inside her head.

'That's where I first stayed, it's actually a classroom now but it used to house several dorms,' says Britain's No 1 as she points at a whitewashed block of buildings in the middle of the campus.

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

'It brings back a lot of good memories.' She looks almost surprised when you ask if she suffered any homesickness, but then not for nothing has the 20-year-old already acquired a reputation as one of the WTA Tour's most durable and resourceful newcomers. And it helps that her three roommates back in those days, aspiring young golfers from South Korea and America – and another called Nicola Reynolds from Guildford – turned out to be friends for life.

'It was too much fun in the dorms to be homesick and those three were great, I think they would be the bridesmaids at my wedding if I ever got married. I just found the whole thing very exciting and I can't remember anything negative about it at all.'

Watson's parents Ian and Michelle had decided that if she was to be serious about her tennis she had to leave Guernsey and head for a place with a track record of producing good players and they plumped for Bradenton.

After three years her mother came to live there part-time and she moved out of the dorms to focus more professionally. Michelle no longer travels that much with her after a request this summer from her daughter that she have a bit more space.

Bathed in year-round sunshine and with an on-site high school, the academy turned out to be a decent choice, which is why Watson heads into the new season exuding such optimism, even by her own sunny standards.

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

When she flies to Auckland on
Christmas night it will be as the world No 49, with a very particular
plan as to how she will build on the success of the past two seasons
that has come quicker than anyone expected.

approaches each campaign with military precision and every December
holds what might be termed an Annual General Meeting with her father,
which can last three hours and features a devastatingly honest appraisal
of the season just gone.

have to be absolutely clear about things and not hold back. It can get
quite heated although this year's took only two hours because I reached
my main target, which was to get into the world's top 50,' she says.

'For the coming season the soft target is to get into the top 30 and the ultimate one is to make the top 25. It would be great to be seeded for a Grand Slam, which sounds a lot but I believe in setting quite tough goals.'

There is also the incentive to ward off the rising challenge of Laura Robson, although she places that in a wider context. 'I would want to finish the year British No 1, not No 2, but I am focussed far more on what happens in the world rankings in general.'

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Watson is currently ending her offseason training block in the company of her Colombian coach Mauricio Hadad and her fitness trainer Flo Pietzsch. On the day we meet she is practising with Alexander Sendegeya, a 16-year-old Liverpudlian based there who is trying a similar route to the top of the game.

After a festive visit from her mother Michelle, the three of them will take off for New Zealand knowing a big opportunity for ranking improvement presents itself. This is because she had a poor start to a season that ended with her becoming the first British player in 24 years to win a title on the main WTA Tour, the HP Open in Osaka.

'I went to Australia last year with half a sprained ankle that I did playing football and it was never going to be good in hindsight. The victory in Japan has really helped my confidence.'

Watson is relatively diminutive at 5ft 7in, but points out that Martina Hingis was no powerhouse either. 'The really positive thing is I've got to where I am with still so much that I can work on. I know I've got to get bigger shots and I'm using doubles to work on coming to the net, which is something I love. I know I am not that big but I have certain advantages with my speed and agility, and my mental toughness.'

Watson believes she is still three to four years off her best and will not rest until she becomes a factor more at the business end of Grand Slam tournaments.

Away from the court her ambition is to buy a flat close to Wimbledon and Roehampton's National Tennis Centre. 'London's expensive so I'm having to save up,' she says. 'I drove past those One Hyde Park apartments the other day. I might have to win a Grand Slam to afford one.

Sports Personality of the Year – who will win on Sunday?

After the greatest ever year of sport for Britain, 12 of our stars line up for Sports Personality of the Year… but who will win



13:55 GMT, 14 December 2012

With the BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner announced on Sunday, it's time to relive the drama and triumph that saw 2012 become the greatest year for sport in British history.

With the Ryder Cup, historic Tour de France and Grand Slam victories, a Champions League title and, of course, the London Olympics, there is an incomparable glut of success to choose from that made this year special, and the awards ceremony will pay homage to those who made it so unique.

Here's a reminder of who's in the running and why they could go home with the final big prize of the year.

The contenders… and what they won in 2012

Nicola Adams – Olympic gold winner and placed second at the World Championships

Ben Ainslie – Took gold in the Olympics, World Cup and World Championships. Also named ISAF World Sailor of the Year

Jessica Ennis – Silver at the World Indoor Championships, gold in the Olympic heptathlon

Mo Farah – Double Olympic gold medal winner

Katherine Grainger – gold medal in the Olympic double sculls, as well as winning all three World Cups

Sir Chris Hoy – Gold in the World Cup, World Championships and the London Games

Rory McIlroy – Both money list titles, Honda Classic, PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship, DP World Tour Championship, Ryder Cup

Andy Murray – Finally bagged his first Slam, the US Open, as well as Olympic gold and a silver in the doubles.

Ellie Simmonds – Double Paralympic gold, as well as a silver and a bronze

Sarah Storey – quadruple gold at the 2012 Paralympics and a double gold at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships

David Weir – Four Paralympic gold medals and a gold in the European Athletics Championships

Bradley Wiggins – Tour de France champion and Olympic road race winner

*BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be shown live on BBC1 on Sunday from 7.30pm


'Has it sunk in Not really. When
everything settles down I will be like “Wow, I've really done it.” But
for now I just hope I've made everyone in the country proud.'

Current Odds: 200/1

Nicola Adams – Boxing

This young woman will go down in history as the first Olympic gold-medal winning female boxer.

It’s hard to gauge how much of a landmark the inclusion of women in boxing for the London 2012 Games will be. Only time will tell. But it will certainly be a competition worth remembering for Adams.

And the fact that it was a revenge mission will have made victory all the sweeter for the flyweight. She had been defeated by Ren Cancan of China twice in world championship finals before exacting revenge in a 16-7 victory at the ExCel Centre.

Adams discusses the future with Laura Williamson

'To leave at the top in the home Olympics will never be improved on.'

Current Odds: 150/1

Ben Ainslie – Sailing

He was awarded the honour of carrying the flag for Team GB at the Olympic closing ceremony after becoming the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time.

When his rivals upset him this summer, combining efforts to put a dent in the Brit’s progress, Ainslie turned his anger into inspiration and went on to claim his fourth Olympic gold medal.

Having won silver in his first Olympics, aged 19, this took his tally to five medals in five different Games.

Ainslie talks to Chris Hall about his fourth Olympic gold

Ben Ainslie flies the British flag after his gold medal win at the London Olympic Games

The sailor captured his fourth gold medal, and his fifth Olympic medal overall, at this years Summer Games

‘I’m just wanting to make the most of this moment, just enjoy it. It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work put in.'

Current Odds: 7/1

Jessica Ennis – Athletics

What more can be said about the golden girl of athletics

Ennis has well and truly become a national treasure this year, after sprinting to a gold medal in the heptathlon while the world watched with bated breath.

Having been forced to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics before being elevated to the face of the 2012 Games, the pressure could not have been higher.

And yet Ennis managed to exceed all expectations, setting a British record in the 100m hurdles with a time that would have seen her take gold in the individual event four years ago, and a personal best in the javelin.

She didn’t need to win the final event, the 800m, but she did so anyway, in joyful fashion.

Ennis talks gold medals and wedding dresses with Laura Williamson

'I could never have imagined it would be
like that. As an athlete you dream of becoming an Olympic champion, but
not in front of a home crowd, and also twice doing it.'

Current Odds: 5/1

Mo Farah – Athletics

It’s been an emotional year for Farah. First two Olympic gold medals, then two baby girls.

Not to mention his fearless performance as he became the first winner on The Cube, raising 250,000 for charity in the process.

Farah joined the very shortlist of men to have won both the 5,000m and the 10,000m at the Olympic Games, and in doing so became arguably the best runner Britain has ever seen.

His moment of glory was named the most inspiring moment of the Games by a public poll.

Farah wins greatest TV moment of the year

Mo Farah reacts to his 5,000m win at the London 2012 Olympics

Mo Farah had two doubles this year – A set of twin girls to match his double Olympic gold

'When you want gold, winning silver is a failure. It might sound ungrateful, but that’s the truth of it.'

Current Odds: 200/1

Katherine Grainger – Rowing

Here is another star who delivered a fairytale ending at the Games.

After having taken silver at the last three Olympic Games, it looked as though the rower was destined to look back on her career never having been able to reach the golden peak.

But all that changed when she teamed up with Anna Watkins in 2010. Since linking up, the duo have bagged two World Championship titles.

They powered past every opponent they came up against in the run up to the Games, and pushed themselves clear of the competition when it came to the final, confirming Grainger as the most successful female British rower of all time.

And let’s not forget, she did all this at the age of 36, when most athletes have long since retired.

Grainger talks to Sportsmail about her gold medal and PhD

Katherine Grainger celebrates her Olympic gold medal in the double sculls

Grainger finally made it gold in 2012 after having settled for second place three times

'I can't put into words what it means to me. It's one of the greatest feelings I have ever had.'

Current Odds: 100/1

Sir Chris Hoy – Cycling

Another British best, Chris Hoy became the most successful British Olympian ever after overtaking Sir Steve Redgrave this year with seven Olympic medals, six of them gold.

He knows what it means to take the Sports Personality award home, having won it for his heroics in the 2008 Olympics.

Like Grainger, he achieved his latest feat at the ripe old age of 36. His position in the Team GB squad has not just been to win medals, but also as a figure of inspiration to those coming into their prime, such as Jason Kenny.

In a team that dominated the Velodrome this year, Hoy was the shining star leading the charge.

Chris Hoy talks about launching his own range of cycles

‘This has been one of the most perfect
days on a golf course if you’re a European. We went out in strength
today trying to lead from the front…it’s an unbelievable feeling.' – After the Ryder Cup

Current Odds: 100/1

Rory McIlroy – Golf

McIlroy had momentum behind him this year, and managed to finish in the top 10 of tournaments 15 times.

After having rounded off a knife-edge victory in the Ryder Cup with the rest of an awe-inspiring European team, he was recently awarded the 2012 Golf Writers' Trophy.

He’s also taken the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, and been named the PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Sports Personality would just be one more accolade to heap on the Northern Irishman, after what has been the finest year of his career.

He won the PGA Championship by eight shots, and became the youngest multiple major champion since Seve Ballesteros.

McIlroy is named PGA Tour Player of the Year

Rory McIlroy celebrates winning the Ryder Cup in 2012

Rory McIlroy topped the money lists in what was most successful year of his career

'It means the world to me. It’s what I’ve
been working towards the last ten years of my life, I always wanted to
try and win a Grand Slam.’

Current Odds: 12/1

Andy Murray – Tennis

The wait for Andy Murray to achieve his dream of a Grand Slam title has been filled with disappointment, bitterness and heartbreak – and that’s just for the fans!

The Scot reached the peak of his career in the latter part of 2012. He suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, but steeled himself and powered through the Olympics only weeks later, determined to take at least one title at the All England Club.

After duly sweeping to a straight sets victory, there was no stopping the 25-year-old, and he went the distance against Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.

After an epic dual, Murray was crowned the first male British Grand Slam winner for 76 years.

Mike Dickson trains with Andy Murray

‘I just put my head down and went for it,
and gave it everything. Everyone was wishing me luck which was so nice.
I did it for myself, I did it for my family.’

Current Odds: 50/1

Ellie Simmonds – Swimming

Simmonds went on a record-breaking run at this summer’s Games, setting new world records in the 200m individual medley and the 400m S6 freestyle, the same race she won in Beijing at the tender age of 13.

She’s already tasted Sports Personality success, having taken home the Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2008, and she’s back in the running for the adult version having taken home another double gold.

She also bagged herself a silver medal in the 100m S6 freestyle, having already set a Paralympic record in the qualifying rounds, and a bronze in the 50m freestyle.

Ellie Simmonds looks back on her golden summer

‘Everything the Paralympics has been
over the last 20 years that I've been involved has now been shared with
everybody. People realise now what we've all been so enthralled with.'

Current Odds: 200/1

Sarah Storey – Cycling

It’s hard to grasp just what Sarah Storey has achieved as far as the Paralympics go.

She now has an incredible haul of 22 medals to her name, after winning gold four times over in 2012, and by significant distances too.

The 35-year-old has competed as both a swimmer and a cyclist, and her most recent triumph came in the C4-5 road race, which was her 11th gold medal overall.

No other Paralympian can match her success in the modern era.

Her Paralympic career has spanned 20 years, and there is no sign of her slowing down anytime soon.

Sarah Story set to add to her family after 'golden' year

‘Obviously I dreamt about winning all my races but it was going to be a tough order. I just really had to dig deep’

Current Odds: 33/1

David Weir – Athletics

The ‘Weirwolf’ dominated his events in the Paralympic Games, winning gold in all four of his T45 category races, from the 800m to the marathon.

His tally of Paralympic medals now stands at 10, and he left commentators hoarse with the drama of his sprint finish in the marathon.

The racer was so intently focused on the race that he couldn’t even tell where the finish line was, and simply kept pushing.

He also won his sixth London Marathon in 2012, equalling Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson.

David Weir chats to Laura Williamson

‘I said at the start of the year I
couldn’t prioritise one or the other, I wanted both. I was greedy, I
don’t mind admitting that. I felt I could do both.’

Current Odds: 1/3

Bradley Wiggins – Cycling

It’s hard to believe that cycling in Britain will ever be looked at the same way after what Bradley Wiggins achieved in 2012.

The first British man to win the Tour de France, he had claimed the yellow jersey early in the race.

He then cruised to his fourth Olympic gold in the time trial, which was also his seventh Olympic medal overall.

On top of that, 2012 has seen him become the only rider in history to win Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and Criterium du Dauphine in one season.

He was recently awarded the Sports Journalists Association's sportsman of the year.

Bradley Wiggins says he wants to defend Tour de France title

Bradley Wiggins sits atop his throne after winning gold at the 2012 Olympics

Wiggins claimed the yellow jersey in the Tour de France before winning gold in the Olympics


Sports Personality of the Year 2012 Nicola Adams profile

In great Nic: Golden girl Adams heads for Rio… and then an acting role in Corrie



23:10 GMT, 12 December 2012

Nicola Adams is grinning. The Olympic flyweight champion, the first female boxer to win a gold medal at the Games, has a few ‘good incentives’ in mind as she discusses her plans.

Even after a ‘mad’ few months in which her life has changed beyond recognition, Adams has more history-making moments up her sleeve.

‘I’m going to stay amateur,’ she says. ‘I’ve still got to get my world gold and women’s boxing will be in the Commonwealths (in Glasgow in 2014). Another first under my belt.

‘Rio 2016 Definitely. Double Olympic boxing champion. Great Britain hasn’t had one yet, so I’m looking forward to that, too.’

Winner by a smile: Nicola Adams takes the Olympic women's flyweight gold medal by beating China's Ren Cancan 16-7 on points

Winner by a smile: Nicola Adams takes the Olympic women's flyweight gold medal by beating China's Ren Cancan 16-7 on points

And after that Adams, who has worked as an extra on Coronation Street and Emmerdale, would like to return to acting.

‘I was in a court scene in Coronation Street,’ she says. ‘Something to do with Gail, I think. I thought it was really cool. I did contemplate going into acting, so I think I’ll probably do a bit of that in the future. Boxing is entertainment, too, isn’t it’

We meet at a college in Hammersmith, west London, where Adams is promoting Us Girls, an initiative to help 30,000 young women from disadvantaged areas become more active.

Adams boings over, all 5ft 5in of her, beaming that unmistakable smile, despite being continually interrupted by girls asking for pictures and autographs.

‘Babyface’ has just turned 30, but every bit of that childlike, pinch-yourself excitement that so endeared her to the nation during the Games is intact.

Thumping: Adams lands a savage right to floor Ren Cancan

Thumping: Adams lands a savage right to floor Cancan

She has met the Queen —‘twice, actually’ — and had to apologise to the Duchess of Cambridge who said she got a sore throat after watching Adams fight ‘because she was screaming and cheering the whole way through’.

She flew to Brazil with David Cameron — ‘We were late but he said, “It’s OK, it’s my plane” ’ — and was thrilled to meet her hero, Sugar Ray Leonard, whose fights she used to watch on video with her father, Innocent.

‘I was really in awe,’ she says. ‘Sugar Ray Leonard was asking what made me start boxing and I said, “Well, you”.

‘Meeting the Queen was great, too. I was at the front of the queue, so I was quite nervous. I’d been practising my curtsey all week, so I had it down to a T when she came round.

‘But it’s just been a bit mad. Life’s changed massively. I go shopping at strange times of the day because, just walking down the road, everyone’s congratulating me. I just think it’s nice, you know, having that appreciation and knowing I’ve touched so many people.’

On the deck: Adams stands above Ren Cancan after flooring the world No 1 in the second round

On the deck: Adams stands above Cancan after flooring the world No 1 in the second round

Adams still seems genuinely overwhelmed by what has happened to her since she beat China’s Ren Cancan to win gold last August. She talks about the ‘bubble’ of competing at a home Games, being entirely focused on her own goals and then being astounded to find she was a household name.

It was not only the significance of her achievement, but the manner in which she realised it that has seen her included on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday. The honour means so much that she can only say ‘wow’ over and over again, but her accomplishments speak for themselves.

That smile seemed to encapsulate the British feelgood factor of the Games, while subtly undoing every tired old stereotype you could throw at a woman in a pair of boxing gloves.

Adams’ determination and talent convinced the doubters as she made history in her own, down-to-earth way and then promptly declared she wanted to celebrate at Nando’s. ‘I get quite a bit of free food,’ she says, giggling.

Yet Adams seems slightly reluctant to take up the mantle of being a trailblazer for women’s sport, despite the humility and pride she shows when girls tell her they have taken up boxing. She declines to pose with pink boxing gloves, although she signs them to be auctioned for charity, and her verdict on being the first woman to receive an award from the Boxing Writers’ Club of Great Britain is telling.

Victory moment: Adams is crowned Olympic champion at the ExCel

Victory moment: Adams is crowned Olympic champion at the ExCel

‘To get an award (the Joe Bromley Award for outstanding services to boxing) a lot of great boxers have got before me — Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis — is amazing. Now I’ll be on the plaque as well. That’s what I want to be known as — a good boxer.

‘There has been, “Women shouldn’t be in the gym and women shouldn’t like boxing”. But I liked changing people’s minds. People would see me perform and say, “You box better than half of the lads in my gym!”. And, just to hear that, it means I’ve done a good job.’

Adams never set out to be a role model. She got into the sport by accident when her mother Dee, who is divorced from Adams’ father, could not get a babysitter one night. Mrs Adams dropped Nicola and her younger brother Kurtis at an after-school boxing club while she did an aerobics class. Adams was hooked, even if she still hates running.

‘I tried the shuffle and that was it,’ she said. ‘I just loved it. I’d get in the mirror, shadow boxing, and doing pads. I loved the skill and technique of it and being able to get in that ring and perform and make people cheer. I think that’s why I enjoyed the Olympics so much: the louder the crowd cheered, the more I did and the better I performed.

‘Even before it was an Olympic sport, when I was little, I would say I was going to be a world champion and I would box in the Olympics. But to think I finally got to do it was like a dream come true, and to win the medal and be the first one ever… it’s definitely a fairytale ending. You can’t beat that. It’s almost like it was meant to be that way.’

Golden wonder: Queen of the ring Adams kisses her medal

Golden wonder: Queen of the ring Adams kisses her medal

There were difficulties along the way. At times Adams struggled to fund her career, and she also had to overcome a serious back injury after falling down 10 stairs at her home in Leeds in 2009.

She tripped over her hand bandages as she hurriedly packed for a fight and damaged her vertebrae, yet still managed to win.

After that came three months in bed, barely able to move, and then a further nine months wearing a back brace. When it was announced that women’s boxing would be included at London 2012, Adams was lying flat on her back.

‘The first time I got back in the ring and sparred after being out for a year it was a shock to the system. But I worked hard and I got back myself back together… and I got the gold.’

She is smiling again, just as she has done every time she mentions that precious medal.

Us Girls, delivered by StreetGames, aims to develop stronger infrastructure in deprived areas to drive up women’s sports participation. For more information go to: @UsGirlsTweet

Jason Puncheon back in favour at Southampton

Jason is Puncheon his weight at last after scoring Saints' winner against Reading



22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012

The remarkable turnaround at Southampton is matched by the remarkable turnaround in the career of their match-winner against Reading.

In January Jason Puncheon looked like he had committed career suicide when he used Twitter to slam Southampton executive chairman Nicola Cortese – his boss.

Puncheon didn’t pull any punches. He accused the Swiss-Italian of forcing him to train with the youngsters, called him ‘Nicolina’ and threatened to spend the rest of his contract, that runs until 2013, training with the reserves and youth team.

Main man: Jason Puncheon (second right) celebrates scoring against Reading

Main man: Jason Puncheon (second right) celebrates scoring against Reading

Puncheon patch-up

What he said Saturday, January 21:

‘I’m not going no where gonna sit an train with the reserves/kids for 18months see how cortese likes that then go on free.

‘Most of u fail to understand that only reason I train with the kids is cos of nicolina not the manager.

‘He won’t speak to face to face that’s how much a man he is.’

What he said Saturday, December 8:

‘People make out Nicola to be a
stern, stubborn character but what he is, is a man of his word. You have
to always give credit to that. He has a good driving force behind

'When I joined I remember the day I
signed he said this football club will be in the Premier League in five
years time – it happened in three years.’

But then Cortese called him in for clear-the-air talks and the winger apologised to him. The next day he was back in training.

Fast-forward 10 months and he found the bottom left corner with a shot across goal in the 61st minute against Reading to lift Saints out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.

It was his fourth goal in all competitions this season and third in the league and he has established himself as one of Southampton’s most dangerous attacking threats.

‘It’s all about growing and maturing as an adult and a player and I’m doing that now,’ Puncheon said after scoring that goal. ‘The gaffer has given me a platform and given me a chance and I’ve grasped it with two hands. That’s what’s happened and that’s why we are where we are.

‘I wasn’t nervous about [meeting Nicola] because he is a man of his word. We had a meeting, we spoke. The next day I was at training. That was the most important thing for me to be settled and start playing again. We had clear-the-air talks and as far as I’m concerned that’s all history. I’m just pleased to get the chance and keep producing.’

Rescued: Puncheon (left) had looked to be heading out of Southampton

Rescued: Puncheon (left) had looked to be heading out of Southampton

His outburst in January followed three loan spells to Millwall, Blackpool and QPR in just less than two years, the first of which came 10 months after his arrival at the club in February 2010. It was during two seasons when Saints were flying and won back-to-back promotions that has landed them back in the Premier League.

They did not drop below fifth in League One in the entire second half of the 2010/11 season. The next campaign in the Championship they did not drop out of the top two at all.

‘It was difficult for me to come back as much as I was loaned out I was coming back to a team that was winning week-in-week-out,’ the 26-year-old added.

‘The club were second in the Championship when I came back and were in the top two all season it’s hard to come back in and hit the ground running the way the boys were playing. I knew coming back having a good preseason would be the start for me and that’s what I needed.

Turnaround: Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has worked wonders

Turnaround: Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has worked wonders

‘I learned a lot from all different types of experiences. That’s what’s helped me now to be settled and to mature as an adult and a player. I wouldn’t change anything the way I went about my career so far, I wouldn’t change any of it. That’s helped me grow as a player and as a human being.’

His manager Nigel Adkins believes Puncheon deserves all the credit he gets. The 56-year-old said: ‘We treat people as human beings and they have all got to be allowed to make mistakes and grow. All the credit that Jason will get now is down to him because he is the one who has got to do it. He’s a great story. It shows how well people can do when you give them an opportunity.’

Following back-to-back promotions Southampton appeared to be punching above their weight in the Premier League at the start of the season. But Puncheon’s goal on Saturday moved them to 15th and they are starting to look like they fit in as well as the midfielder does in their team.

Mohamed Al Fayed ready to sue Premier League over fair play plan – Charles Sale

Fayed ready to sue Premier League over fair play plan



23:19 GMT, 16 November 2012

The strongest opposition to the Premier League’s plan to introduce financial fair play regulations next season is going to come from Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed.

Egyptian billionaire Fayed, who bought Fulham in 1997, is so opposed to any financial restraints being imposed on the top-flight clubs that it is understood he would take legal action if necessary to combat FFP rulings.

Fulham representatives at chairmen’s summits, who include club director and long-time Fayed spokesman Michael Cole, have already indicated to the Premier League that they would be consulting with lawyers on the subject.

Beat it: Al Fayed - who commissioned this statue of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage - wants the freedom to spend his money how he likes

Beat it: Al Fayed – who commissioned this statue of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage – wants the freedom to spend his money how he likes

Fayed believes he is entitled to spend his own fortune as he sees fit and if he wants to buy a player for the fans, he should be able to do so.

The Premier League need 14 of their 20 clubs to agree to any FFP changes. Fulham, along with Manchester City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich are wholeheartedly against, with Everton wavering.

Ronnie could reinvent himself

World snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, whose break from the game might continue until he defends the title next May, has changed his sports management agency to Merlin Elite, whose stable include Andrew Flintoff, Jamie Redknapp and Denise Lewis.

Merlin specialise in re-inventing sports stars — Flintoff’s foray into boxing, for example — and intend to offer O’Sullivan opportunities away from the snooker table. There is interest from the Discovery Channel and China.

Reinvention: O'Sullivan (left) could change his career

Reinvention: O'Sullivan (left) could change his career

Olympic flame still burning

The never-ending London 2012 lap of honour continues at Twickenham on Saturday with 13 Olympic and Paralympic medallists, including David Weir and Nicola Adams, parading at half-time in the England v Australia game.

This follows Bradley Wiggins giving a well-received motivational speech to the England squad during their training camp at St George’s Park.

Guest of honour: David Weir

Guest of honour: David Weir

More from Charles Sale…

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Charles Sale: Premier League loses its fizz for sponsor Lucozade

Charles Sale: Rooney's second book flop leaves publishes unsure over future titles


Johnson struggling at RFU

Former FA lawyer Simon Johnson, who had a difficult enough job persuading FA councillors to accept some governance reforms, faces an even harder task in introducing similar measures at Twickenham.

Johnson is on a six-month secondment to the RFU to help implement the Slaughter & May report proposals to slim the RFU council from 60 to 25. But the Twickenham blazers show every sign of kicking the findings into touch.

Spinning Jen gets axe

Liverpool, whose PR has been woeful ever since last season’s Luis Suarez affair, have yet to decide whether to replace director of communications Jen Chang, whose inevitable departure was announced on Friday.

It was impossible for Chang, who is likely to have signed a confidentiality agreement as part of a severance dressed up as ‘mutual consent’, to remain once the club apologised for his inappropriate behaviour to fan Sean Cummins.

This followed an internal investigation into complaints of harassment made by Cummins following his meeting with Chang in a Manchester restaurant to discuss the controversial spoof Twitter account, Duncan Jenkins.

The family reasons mentioned in Liverpool’s statement proved a convenient get-out as Chang had yet to relocate his pregnant wife and two children from New York to Merseyside.

Dons clash already hotting up

Such is AFC Wimbledon’s animosity towards MK Dons that fans travelling to Buckinghamshire for their FA Cup second-round clash on December 2 are considering producing their own programme and taking their own food.

Grudge match: Wimbledon travel to MK Dons in the second round of the FA Cup

Grudge match: Wimbledon travel to MK Dons in the second round of the FA Cup

AFC Wimbledon’s directors have already
decided to boycott the MK Dons boardroom and will sit with supporters in
the stands. ‘It would be hypocritical to shake chairman Pete
Winkelman’s hand,’ said one AFC Wimbledon board member. ‘He is the man
who stole our club.’

Puppet poetry

After the shambolic way the UCI, cycling’s ruling body, handled the Lance Armstrong drugs scandal, it is fitting that the official symbol of the World Championships in Italy next year is due to be Pinocchio.