The Ian Wooldridge award: Vote for your sporting hero
22:46 GMT, 20 December 2012
The Ian Wooldridge award
Established in honour of the late Sportsmail legend Ian Wooldridge, who died almost six years ago, the annual award is voted for by you, our readers.
It celebrates the combination of sporting genius and Corinthian spirit so beloved of 'Woolers'.
You can send your nomination by email and to help you in your selection, our writers offer their choices and the reasons behind them . . .
I suggest Ian would raise a glass to Sebastian Coe, even if age means that the great athlete is no longer quite 'every mother's son, every girl's dreamboat, every schoolboy's idol, every spinster's sigh, every reactionary's recollection of how young men used to be'.
Coe was one of Ian's favourite figures in sport, as you may have gathered. This summer Coe might also have succeeded in rekindling Ian's lost love for an Olympic movement that had become tarnished by the dual stimulants of cash and drugs. Ian would certainly have approved of the manner in which Coe presented the grand old city of London to the world.
Poster girl: Jessica Ennis wins heptathlon gold
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Poults at the Ryder Cup is the most compelling example imaginable of sport at the highest level boiled down to its purest essence. Here is a man who earns millions every year yet the most passionate you will ever see him is when he is playing for nothing for Europe.
Nothing was more miraculous at Medinah this year than the manner in which he breathed life into Europe to complete their astonishing comeback, and it was all underwritten with that certain sense of style that has earned him his worldwide following.
Not only would Woolers have enjoyed writing about Poulter, he would have enjoyed getting to know him as well.
Where to begin in this of all sporting years Ian would have loved 2012 and all the rich array of sporting goodies it provided, but I think he would have had a particular soft spot for Jessica Ennis. She carried the pressure of being the poster girl of the London Games with class and dignity and won her gold medal with that perfect blend of sporting genius and a big smile.
Mary Peters was a big favourite of Woolers and I think he would have seen echoes of her in Ennis. My vote goes to Jess.
Katherine Grainger: Personifies the cheery discipline of GB oarspeople
Roll of honour
2008…………. Chrissie Wellington
2009…………. Rebecca Adlington
2010……………………. Jessica Ennis
2011……………………. Amy Williams
2012………………. Jonny Wilkinson
I have a feeling Ian would have liked Katherine Grainger, her equally delightful partner in the double sculls Anna Watkins, and would have revelled in the former winning gold this summer after three consecutive silver medals.
Her ready smile would appeal, as would the fact that she has a hinterland beyond her sport, studying for the PhD in homicide that helps make it easy for her to discuss matters way beyond the realm of rowing. She personifies the cheery discipline of GB oarspeople that Ian would admire.
Grainger can count herself extremely unlucky to only finish 11th in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but winning this award would be some fitting consolation.
Not even Usain Bolt had his own theme music played inside the Olympic Stadium last summer, but 'The Weirwolf' did.
Weir covered more than nine miles in six races over 36 laps of the track to win Paralympic gold in the T54 800 metres, 1500m and 5,000m and then topped it all with a fourth gold in the marathon to become the greatest wheelchair racer of all time.
The scale of his sporting achievements in 2012 were incredible, yet even more impressive was the way Weir transformed people's perceptions of Paralympic sport.
The man who fell out of love with wheelchair racing, after seeing the Paralympics sidelined and maligned in Atlanta in 1996, returned, triumphant, 16 years later to put it firmly on the map. And this very British champion did it all powered by 'nothing more than beetroot juice'.
Beet that: David Weir in the 800m
SIR HENRY CECIL
You do not need to be a racing fan to realise Frankel was a horse in a million nor to appreciate the massive contribution to his success of Sir Henry Cecil. The criteria for this award demands the description of genius in a nominee – that is not in doubt with the Newmarket trainer.
Science delivers fresh aids to his profession each passing season, but it is Cecil's all-seeing eye, allied to his innate feel for a horse, which helped him mould Frankel's raw strength into the turbo-charged racing machine which achieved a perfect 14-race career record. This was done while undergoing draining chemotherapy that ravaged Cecil's body and reduced his voice to a barely audible whisper. He had to miss the Sussex Stakes win at Glorious Goodwood in August but, with incredible courage, was back at Frankel's side amid never-to-be- forgotten scenes for the colt's final two wins.
Ian loved his cricket and he loved his genuine English cricketing heroes. He would have loved the full flourishing of Alastair Cook as a prolific run scorer and a winning captain.
Woolers might privately have preferred a bit more dash from Cook along the lines of a Denis Compton. But he would certainly have been impressed by Cook's steadfast refusal to have anything to do with the modern cult of celebrity. Five centuries in his first five matches as captain; the youngest to reach 7,000 runs in Test cricket; the most Test centuries, 23, by an Englishman. Yet, stats would not have been the clincher for Woolers. He would have looked at Cook, seen an unassuming, modest, dignified man with intelligence and steely resolve and thought: he will do for me.
Run machine: England captain Alastair Cook
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL
The Ryder Cup captain's humble deference to his late friend and fellow Spaniard Severiano Ballesteros as the legendary inspiration for Europe's great comeback victory over the US at Medinah was very much in keeping with Ian's style.
Giving the award to Ollie would also expand the tribute to the memory of Seve, one of Woolers' all-time sporting heroes.
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