December brings thoughts of Christmas, perhaps snow, and, depending on your preferences, the festive football frenzy, the seasonal darts action, the big Boxing Day race meetings, the race for the Christmas number one, the finale of Strictly Come Dancing, or the annual jamboree that is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards – AKA, SPOTY.
It is the latter which is our focus here, as we run the rule over the six sportspeople who have been nominated for the eponymous major prize. The voting and nomination system has changed several times over the years but the current format sees a panel of judges decide on six finalists who then go to a public vote. Here are the six greats in the running for the 2023 award.
Stuart Broad – Cricket
England legend Broad announced his retirement from cricket during the 2023 Ashes series and then promptly hit the last ball he ever faced for six and took the match-winning wicket with the last ball he ever bowled! It was a fitting way for such a pugnacious player to bow out, especially against Australia. The Nottinghamshire great played 167 Tests for England and took a mammoth 604 wickets.
His longevity was matched by his ability to rise to the occasion and although he had some dips during his career, fans will long remember those destructive spells he could produce to turn a game when they were really needed. In addition to his 600+ wickets, he also scored over 3,600 Test runs for his side.
Frankie Dettori – Horse Racing
The “Personality” in SPOTY is often a misnomer, and the award really is simply one of sporting excellence but 2023 is a little different, with several of the nominees being greats of their sport but also possessing bags of personality. Dettori, like Broad, falls into that category. One of the greatest flat jockeys of all time, the man from Milan has won just about everything the sport has to offer.
Like Broad, he also announced his retirement but soon went back on that and in October stated that he would be continuing his career in the US and internationally. It would certainly be no surprise to see him back on UK soil at some stage too, if the right opportunity arose. Dettori has achieved so much but will perhaps be best remembered for his “Magnificent 7” at Ascot, when he won every race on the card in 1996.
Mary Earps – Football
Earps is another contender with personality to spare and the England goalkeeper is the red-hot favourite with the bookmakers to land the prize. If she does win, she will follow in the footsteps of fellow Lioness Beth Mead, who claimed glory 12 months ago. That shows just how popular the women’s game is right now and Earps would be a worthy winner, both for her performances on the pitch and for her battle with Nike when they initially refused to produce the goalie’s jersey for sale.
Earps played a big part in England’s Euros victory but is nominated this year for winning the Golden Gloves award at the 2023 World Cup. England lost in the final but Earps was superb and also helped her team win the Finalissima, as well as claiming WSL Golden Glove glory with Man United.
Alfie Hewitt – Tennis
Alfie Hewitt is arguably the greatest tennis player Britain has ever produced and in 2023 he rose to become the number one wheelchair tennis player in the world. He has won 26 majors, with eight of those being in singles and 18 in doubles. In 2023 he won the Australian Open title for the fourth time in a row in doubles, and also claimed singles glory Down Under as well.
2023 was truly an incredible year for the Norwich-born star, as he also claimed the singles title at the US Open, defending his crown. In addition, he made the final at Wimbledon but just missed out. However, his time in SW19 was still a success as he claimed his fifth Wimbledon doubles title.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Athletics (Heptathlon)
Johnson-Thompson was the nearly woman for so long and sometimes let the occasion get to her on the biggest stage. However, in 2023 she showed incredible mettle and real sporting brilliance to earn her second gold medal at the World Championships. She first won gold at the worlds in Doha in 2019 but in 2022 she was disappointing and ended down in eighth.
However, in Budapest she roared back to claim gold against the odds. She produced incredible performances in the 200m and long jump, topping the standings in both. However, what made her victory particularly exciting was that she came from behind and delivered the goods in some of her weaker events, producing personal bests in the final two disciplines (javelin and 800m). That helped her to a seasonal best points total of 6740 to see her beat US star Anna Hall into second.
Rory McIlroy – Golf
Rory’s search for major glory goes on, his last win in one of the game’s most prestigious tournaments now almost 10 years ago. However, 2023 was still a fabulous year for the man from Holywood, as he defended his Race to Dubai crown, winning the Scottish Open along the way, had three top 7s in the majors, and played a crucial role in Europe’s thrashing of the USA in the Ryder Cup.
McIlroy’s four points out of five in Italy were key in beating a US side that opted to allow players from LIV to compete. That would have given the Northern Irish ace even more incentive to win as he has been a vocal critic of the new Saudi-backed tour. McIlroy has shown real leadership qualities off the course in that regard, whilst on the course, he has been in the top three in the world rankings for the entire calendar year, reaching number one following an especially fine run of form.