Mo Farah’s fans might not have liked it, but the British public delivered the right result in last night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Ignoring the Olympic Games, many of the contenders probably wouldn’t have done enough during the rest of the year to earn a nomination, so it was good to see two of the top three consist of sportsmen who not only delivered at the Olympics but also achieved other big things in their respective sport during the course of 2012.
The Tour de France win for Bradley Wiggins gave Britain its first ever winner in the 99th staging of the event. And in tennis, Andy Murray followed up his first ever Wimbledon final with a win in the US Open to become Britain’s first male Grand Slam champion for 76 years. Both men were also gold medalists in London.
So what of Mo? Fans have been disappointed not to even see his name make the top three, and after his omission from the three-man shortlist for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Male Athlete of the Year award last month, might be feeling that he’s been hard done to.
The reality, however, is that in a year of outstanding achievements, Mo Farah’s performance at the Olympics wasn’t quite as impressive as the performances of his main rivals for both awards.
There was a lot of coverage in the British sports news when the IAAF shortlist found no place for Farah, but any complaint would have been to lack consideration of the achievements of the men who were shortlisted.
Usain Bolt successfully defended all three of his gold medals won in Beijing. In the process, he also broke the 100m Olympic record, came close to repeating the feat in the 200m, before contributing to an astonishing new world record time in the 4x100m relay.
Aries Merritt won Olympic gold in the 110m hurdles, but it was his world record-breaking performance a month later that attracted the most attention. The American broke the world record by 0.08 seconds – the biggest margin to be knocked off the record for 33 years.
And in the 800m, David Rudisha’s performance in winning Olympic gold not only broke the world and Olympic record, but he became the first man in history to run under 1 minute 41 seconds. It was deemed to be the IAAF’s Performance of the Year.
Mo Farah’s achievement at the Olympics was quite sensational, but in a year when so many others have broken records, or reached peaks that few, if anyone, have managed in the past, it just wasn’t quite enough to give him the edge the he needed over all of the other nominees.
Six men have previously achieved the feat of 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals at the same Olympic Games, although whilst the achievement of winning gold in both events is to be celebrated, both races were run at such a slow pace that its difficult to regard the performance as being equally impressive as a record-breaking performance in another event.
In the 10,000m, the winning time in the Olympic final was slower than the time run by 37 different men in 2012 alone. In other words, Mo Farah is only the 38th fastest man in the men’s 10,000m this year.
The men’s 5,000m was even slower, and even lightning pace throughout the final 1000m couldn’t prevent the finishing time from being the slowest 5,000m at any Olympic Games since 1968.
The moment that Mo came through to the finish line on a warm Saturday night during the summer of 2012 will be an individual sporting moment that many of us will always remember. The excitement of a gold-medal winning conclusion to one of Great British Athletics’ finest ever days of competition will always inspire happy memories. So, too, will the footage of Mo’s celebrations, that have been copied up and down the country by his millions of fans.
But in such a remarkable sporting year for sportsmen in Britain and abroad, there were just too many strong contenders elsewhere. Had it been a popularity contest, there would have been only one winner. As it was, emotion had to be kept under control and the award voted for on the basis of sporting achievement alone.
By voting Bradley Wiggins as this year’s winner, the public got it right.