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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 12:37 GMT
Zara Phillips - A worthy winner?
By Frank Keogh

Zara Phillips
1 Zara Phillips 32.5%
2 Darren Clarke 21.2 %
3 Beth Tweddle 12.98%
Total of 680,000 votes cast by phone/ text during the show
Zara Phillips claimed a third of the public vote as she won the 2006 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

But as the equestrian star declared she was "amazed" to lift the famous trophy, her victory was already beginning to divide opinion.

Supporters heralded a deserved triumph for a young woman who has worked hard to reach the top of her sport.

Opponents slated a success for privilege, and style over substance in a lean year for British sport.

Here, we put the arguments for and against awarding the Queen's granddaughter one of sport's most coveted prizes.

We include a selection of comments from users of our 606 website, where you can join the debate.

FOR: "She has triumphed through talent and hard work"

Phillips has reached the summit of equestrianism through dedication and determination, shrugging off the image of a Royal rebel in the process.

Pictured with a tongue stud as a teenager, she was portrayed as a pampered princess more interested in partying than knuckling down.

But the 25-year-old has mastered one of the most demanding sports around - tackling the three disciplines of dressage, cross country and show jumping. And all on a global stage.

To succeed requires skill, discipline and the ability to forge a partnership with your horse, negotiating 4ft fences at speed.

In the days before Phillips claimed gold at the World Equestrian Games in Germany, the dangers of three-day eventing were tragically illustrated.

Sherelle Duke, a friend of Phillips, died after a fall at horse trials in Brockenhurst.

The Royal wanted to attend her funeral, but promised her family and Duke's boyfriend that she would win the gold medal as a tribute to the Northern Ireland rider - and kept her word.

In the process, she became only the third eventing rider in history to hold the world and European titles at the same time.

She was clearly the public's choice for the BBC award by some distance - polling 32.5% of the 680,000 votes cast.

Her nearest rival, the hot favourite Darren Clarke, was on 21% despite his emotional Ryder Cup heroics.

And if Phillips goes on to claim Olympic gold, say at the 2012 Games in London, where will her detractors be then?

Your views

"Eventing is the most dangerous sport in the world and top riders are regularly killed and injured. It takes years and years of hard training of rider and horse to get to world-class level in the three sports involved." Dressagerider100.

"You have to have nerves of steel to do cross country." MUFCalltheway.

"I don't usually follow equestrian events but her personality and grit has really shone through this year." Kevin Drinkell's Aura.

"You are part of a team, you work as a team with your horse which requires far more skill than many other sports." I_amhorse_rider.

"I'm not rich, but I ride cost me 3.50 to 10 per would cost me 80-100 for a pair of football boots! I really don't get this exclusivity thing." Trebore 31.

AGAINST: "Unbelievable - a minority sport for the rich and privileged"

Phillips is 11th in line to the throne and has never struggled for money or backing.

She competes in a minority sport, where few members of the public would know the names of any leading competitors.

And just how accessible is equestrianism? It is not as if you can just pop down to your local leisure centre and jump on a horse.

Speaking of which, there was no prize for her equine partner Toytown. When Bob Champion won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti, the pair were given the Team of the Year honour.

Phillips was one of six world champions on the shortlist of 10 contenders for the award.

But she has a naturally higher media profile than some of the other candidates and enjoyed an early feature in the programme itself.

The shortlist boasted few household names, highlighting a poor year for some of Britain's major sports.

No footballer, rugby player or athlete made the final 10. Cricketer Monty Panesar was in the line-up, and he cannot even make the England team for the Ashes down under.

Others did have strong claims, including golfer Darren Clarke, who helped Europe to an emotional Ryder Cup win just weeks after the death of his wife Heather.

And Joe Calzaghe produced one of the best British boxing performances of recent years when he defeated the unbeaten American Jeff Lacy. His record reads 42 wins from 42 fights.

Maybe a tough Welsh boxer, whose achievements are shown by a rival broadcaster, just doesn't cut it with middle England?

Your views

"Here is a winner who has never had to struggle or worry about money. Whatever she had chosen to do in life she would always have had it easy." Blackpuddingboy.

"I think Phillips' appearances in the glossies has as much to do with her win as anything else." Tobymar.

"Amazing. Amazing. The only word she could say was 'amazing'." Spidernix.

"Is it coincidence that the top three winners of the Sports Personality of the Year are the only sports that the BBC still have?" Womsy1.

"I wish I had the figures in front of me, but I sincerely doubt equestrianism has that much following comparatively in this country or in the world." Ashes2Ashes.

Phillips wins top BBC Sport award
10 Dec 06 |  Sport Homepage
Sports Personality: The winners
10 Dec 06 |  Sport Homepage
Sports Personality photos
10 Dec 06 |  Sports Personality


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