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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Sports Personality: The battle hots up

Even with four months still to go until the big night, speculation is already rife.

Which sporting greats are leading the race to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year?

Without, it must be stressed, any hint of inside knowledge, BBC Sport Online rounds up the runners and riders.


Name: Paula Radcliffe
Odds: 1-4

The overwhelming favourite with bookmakers William Hill.

She could be had for 33-1 at the start of April - but since then her wonderful series of achievements has decimated those odds.

A smiling Paula Radcliffe
Have Manchester and Munich sealed it for Paula?
First it was the London Marathon, Paula destroying the field and course record in her first ever race over the distance.

Then Manchester went crazy when she won her first ever track gold in the Commonwealth 5,000m.

Less than a fortnight later, Paula ran the second fastest time in history to take the European 10,000m title.

So popular that even your mum will tune in to watch her in action, Paula will become an even shorter-priced favourite if she succeeds in setting a new world record in her final race of the year, the Chicago Marathon in October.


Name: Tony McCoy
Odds: 50-1

On the face of it, the man known to his fans as 'AP' should be in with a great shout of the BBC gong.

Tony McCoy celebrates his record
McCoy: outsider for the big prize
On Tuesday, he broke Richard Dunwoody's British record for total jump victories.

Earlier this year, he overtook Sir Gordon Richards' long-standing mark of 269 winners in a single season.

But his odds reflect the fact that jockeys traditionally do not do well in the Sports Personality voting.

In the year that he rode his 'Magnificent Seven', Frankie Dettori finished a mere third in the voting.


Name: Lennox Lewis
Odds: 3-1

Winner of the award in 1999, Lennox's defeat of Mike Tyson has made him second favourite for the 2002 trophy.

Lennox Lewis celebrates his win over Mike Tyson
Can Lennox snatch another Sports Personality award?
Lewis himself says that the knockout of Tyson was the defining moment of his career, and the impressive viewing figures for the BBC's re-run of the bout a full week after the fight illustrate just how popular the world champion is.

Boxers have a good record at the annual Sports Personality bash, but Lennox may need another high-profile fight before the end of the year to keep his face in the public eye.


Name: David Beckham
Odds: 16-1

The current holder of the award, Becks is certain of thousands of votes from Manchester United fans across the country.

But by his own standards, 2002 has not been the most illustrious of years.

His broken metatarsal kept him out of the conclusion to the English season, a year in which United failed to win a single trophy.

David Beckham composes himself before a game
Has Beckham done enough in 2002?
If England had won the World Cup, captain Beckham would be way ahead of even Radcliffe in the voting.

But Becks was subdued as Sven's men fell in the quarter-finals - and with only European Championship qualifiers to come this autumn, there are few high-profile games in which he can shine.

And then there's the small matter of supporters of other Premiership clubs voting for the other contenders to keep the Man United star off the top...


Name: Tim Henman
Odds: 33-1

Sure, Tim reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon - and British tennis success is always well rewarded by the Sports Personality voters.

But the manner of that thumping defeat by Lleyton Hewitt on Centre Court - allied to a certain weariness from the fans after so many Wimbledon near-misses - have hurt Tim's chances.

Unless he pulls off a miracle at Flushing Meadows, the US Open offers Henman little hope of a comeback.


Name: Colin Montgomerie
Odds: 100-1

Colin Montgomerie anxiously watches a shot
A Monty win would be a seismic shock
With all four Majors out of the way, Monty needs a sensational Ryder Cup to catapult him back into the reckoning.

If his own incendiary performances at The Belfry next month almost single-handedly win the Cup for Europe, he might be worth a punt.

But as things stand at the moment - injured back and inconsistent form in mind - you might be best advised to back a different horse.


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See also:

06 Aug 02 | European Athletics
27 Aug 02 | Horse Racing
09 Jun 02 | Lewis v Tyson fight
28 Aug 02 | Sports Talk
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