This article titled “Sports Personality of the Year: an alternative women-only shortlist” was written by Andy Bull, for The Guardian on Tuesday 29th November 2011 14.09 UTC
There is not a single woman on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011. There are plenty of bad excuses for this but no good explanations. The BBC was quick to pass the buck to the panel of sports editors which it polled to make its selection, though it has not yet made it clear why it could find room for the views of what it calls the “very knowledgeable individuals” at Nuts and Zoo but not specialist sports magazines such as sportsister.com or womensportreport.com.
Astonishingly enough, among the 27 editors who provided the BBC with lists of their nominees, 10 of them (from the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Western Mail, Metro, the Irish News, the People, the Daily Post, the Daily Star on Sunday, and yes, Zoo and Nuts) thought that there was not a single female sports performance or personality in 2011 who was worthy of inclusion.
Now, no doubt those editors will have considered the respective merits of all these cases already, but even so here is a list of 10 women who they decided were not worthy. Let’s start with Sarah Stevenson, the taekwondo athlete. In May she won her third world title, beating the reigning Olympic champion. This same year she has lost her mother, to terminal cancer, and her father to a brain tumour. “It helped that my parents wanted me to go to the world championships,” she said earlier this year. “I feel like I’ve got a switch in my head where one day I could be crying and wanting to go home, then I’m there to fight and win.”
The Guardian’s Donald McRae has just finished this extraordinary interview with her, and says he “cannot think of a single sporting figure in Britain who deserves recognition more”.
Then there is Keri-Anne Payne, who became the first British athlete in any sport to qualify for the 2012 Olympics when she won the world 10km open swimming at the World Aquatic Championships, having battled past jellyfish, sharks and animal corpses along the way. Rebecca Adlington also won gold at those championships, her first world title over long course, in the 800m. That makes her the reigning world and Olympic champion at the distance.
Another 2011 world champion was Kath Grainger, the single most successful female rower in British history, with three Olympic silvers and six world championships golds. She won the latest of those in September, in the double sculls together with Anna Watkins. The two of them are still unbeaten in the event. Grainger also happens to have an honours law degree from Edinburgh University, a master of philosophy degree in medical law from Glasgow University and is currently studying for a PhD in law at King’s College London.
The triathlete Chrissie Wellington won her fourth World Ironman title, in Hawaii, despite having been in a bike crash two weeks before the race that left her with a torn pectoral muscle, extensive road rash and a severely bruised hip and elbow. Away from athletics – amazingly she still finds free time in between training for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and marathon run that make up her event – Wellington works with charities to help conflict-affected communities.
“Like a stuck record I ramble on about development to anyone that will listen,” she says. “It is my passion and has been for a long time. Poverty, conflict, violence, crime, exclusion and so forth are not givens. They happen for a reason. We have the power to change things. And sport is one vehicle for doing so.”
What about the team sports? The Everton midfielder Jill Scott was at the heart of the England side who made it to the quarter-finals of the football World Cup in Germany last July only to lose on penalties to France, and who beat the eventual winners, Japan, along the way.
She was one of two English players to make Fifa’s team of the tournament. Her video diaries of her trips to the local launderette and her attempt to clear all the insects from her hotel room with the only spray to hand – a can of Febreze – made her a bit of a star off the pitch as well as on it.
The English cricket captain Charlotte Edwards led her team to victory in the ODI quadrangular series against Australia, India and New Zealand in the summer, as well as a 3-0 whitewash of South Africa in the autumn, and victory in 10 out of 12 Twenty20s the team played. And she scored 864 runs at an average of 41.14 across all three formats while she was at it, including a wonderful unbeaten 114 against Australia in the one-off Ashes Test.
Then there is Hayley Turner, the UK’s most successful female jockey. She rode her first Group One winner, Dream Ahead, in the July Cup at Newmarket, and repeated the trick the following month during the Ebor meeting. And we should not forget the gymnast Beth Tweddle, who won her third successive European title on the uneven bars.
And rounding out this list of 10, the Daily Mail deserves credit for nominating Stefanie Reid, the amputee long-jumper who lost a foot in a boating accident when she was 16. After her form this year she will start as favourite in the T44 long jump in London 2012. But then, if a woman can’t make it into the top 10 list, what chance does a Paralympian have?
• This article was amended on 30 November 2011 to correct some details about Sarah Stevenson’s parents.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010