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Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 12:33 UK

Who will win Sports Personality?

Lewis HamiltonTom DaleyKelly SothertonVictoria PendletonMark CavendishRebecca RomeroPhillips IdowuPaula RadcliffeAndy MurrayLee Westwood

By Chris Charles

It's been seven months since Joe Calzaghe lifted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy, during which time a man has given birth to a baby, aliens have been spotted over Liverpool and Amy Winehouse has been causing havoc (some things never change).

Lewis Hamilton celebrates at Silverstone
Catch me if you can

In sport, the rest of Europe somehow managed to cope with the absence of the home nations as the stylish Spaniards claimed victory in arguably the greatest football tournament ever, while Rafael Nadal's thrilling Wimbledon win is still fresh in the memory.

None of them will be eligible for the main SPOTY award but Rafa will surely be battling it out with his countrymen for the overseas gong. Martin O'Neill, for one, will be delighted to see Villa in contention.

So what of the British candidates? Lewis Hamilton is currently in pole position after his heroics at Silverstone, but there are a group of cyclists in the chasing pack, plus an unlikely name as the leading football candidate.

With the Olympics just around the corner, one competitor could be just a gold medal away from dethroning Calzaghe in December.

So without further ado, let's give you the runners and riders battling it out for SPOTY glory.


NAMES IN THE FRAME

Odds based on average from different bookmakers.

LEWIS HAMILTON 9-4 (23, English, Motorsport)
The Formula 1 ace was runner-up to Calzaghe in last year's Sports Personality, after just failing to get over the finishing line in a remarkable debut season.

Hamilton got off to a flyer by winning 2008's opening Grand Prix in Australia but suffered a blip after jumping a red light in Canada, taking out Kimi Raikkonen in the process. He then got a drive-through penalty in France, where he'd started 10 places back on the grid for his earlier misdemeanours.

606: DEBATE

But all was forgiven as Hamilton enjoyed a triumphant homecoming at the British Grand Prix, taking the chequered flag in treacherous conditions at Silverstone, in what was hailed by petrol-heads as one of the great drives.

SPOTY prediction: If he stays on the right side of the tracks and claims the F1 title, Stevenage's favourite son will have one hand on the trophy.


TOM DALEY 11-2 (14, English, Diving)
At an age when he should be riding his Raleigh Chopper and building Airfix models (or whatever it is kids do these days), Daley is getting ready to take on the world's elite in Beijing.

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Profile: Olympic diver Tom Daley

The Plymouth youngster has had an incredible 2008 from the 10m platform, taking the British Championships by storm with wins in the individual and synchro events, before claiming individual gold at the European Swimming Championships - the youngest person ever to do so.

For a while he was all set to be Britain's youngest-ever Olympian as well - and he would have got away with it had it not been for that pesky historian who pointed out Ken Foster was still 13 when competing as a cox in the 1960 Games.

No matter, our Tom is going to make a big splash in Beijing - and will at the very least be hoping to successfully defend his Young Sports Personality of the Year trophy, although Laura Robson may have something to say about that (more of her later).

SPOTY prediction: Likely to finish outside the medals in Beijing but, like the German football team, never write him off. If Daley makes the podium, he could also be SPOTY's youngest winner.


KELLY SOTHERTON 9-1 (31, English, Athletics)

Sotherton finds herself right in the mix, following the withdrawal of two of her main rivals from Beijing.

After years of playing second fiddle to the great Carolina Kluft in the heptathlon, Sotherton finally has a chance to step out of her shadow, after the Swede announced she would not be defending her Olympic crown this summer.

With the sad news last month that GB team-mate Jessica Ennis will also miss the Games through injury, Sotherton will never have a better chance of converting her Athens bronze into gold.

And with Mark Cavendish putting the Isle of Man on the map (see below), she would become the biggest news in the Isle of Wight since Jimi Hendrix wowed them at the 1970 rock festival.

SPOTY prediction: Even if she takes Beijing by storm, Kluft's absence may steal some of her thunder and other GB gold medallists could have a better chance.


VICTORIA PENDLETON 10-1 (27, English, Cycling)

The smart money has been pouring in on British cycling's pin-up girl since we last did a check on the SPOTY contenders, with bookmakers trimming her odds in from 22-1.

When Pendleton is not posing in various states of undress for magazine shoots, she has been picking up medals like kids at an Easter egg hunt.

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Inside Sport: Victoria Pendleton

The 2008 Track World Championships catapulted her into the spotlight, with golds in the sprint and team sprint, along with silver in the keirin.

Now Pendleton turns her attention to the Olympics, where she is favourite to cement her position as the world's finest female sprinter by claiming the ultimate prize in Beijing.

SPOTY prediction: Only one cyclist has ever been named Sports Personality of the Year - Tom Simpson in 1965 - but if she does the business in Beijing, Vicky may have the bookies running for cover and the lads' mags queueing at her door.


MARK CAVENDISH 16-1 (23, English, Cycling)
A week is a long time in the world of Sports Personality and, much like his performances in the Tour de France, Cavendish has come from nowhere to charge into the spotlight.

The Manx cyclist backed up his claims to be the world's fastest sprinter with two stage wins in three days - the first Brit to do so since Barry Hoban in the year when Sunderland won the FA Cup and Slade had the Christmas number one.

Add to that Cavendish's two victories in this year's Giro d'Italia and the small matter of becoming world madison champion with Bradley Wiggins, with whom he will go for gold in the Olympics next month, and you have a SPOTY winner in the making.

SPOTY prediction: Facing stiff competition, not least from his fellow cyclists, but win another stage of the Tour, followed by Olympic gold and a top three place could be in the bag.


REBECCA ROMERO 16-1 (28, English, Cycling)
With Spanish blood coursing through her veins, Romero could join Torres, Nadal and co on the winners' rostrum - only this time under the GB banner.

Britons everywhere will be delighted her father chose to marry an English girl, particularly if she can add a cycling gold or two to the silver she won at Athens - in rowing.

Rebecca Romero rowing and cycling
Is there anything she can't do?

Injury put paid to her participation in the sculls but, undeterred, Romero decided to switch sports in 2006 and her progress was so rapid she goes into Beijing as the current world champion in both the individual and team pursuits. Some people, eh?

SPOTY prediction: Competing against a host of other cyclists for the public's affection, but her remarkable conversion from water to track makes Romero a lively contender.


PHILLIPS IDOWU 16-1 (29, English, Athletics)
They'll be dancing on the streets of Hackney if this larger-than-life Londoner, with a penchant for hair dye and facial jewellery, can hop, skip and jump his way to glory in Beijing.

After a career dogged by injury and disappointment, the triple jumper leapt back into contention by winning the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, before posting the longest jump in the world this year as he took the weekend's British Olympic trials by storm.

Athens was one to forget for Idowu, where he logged three no-jumps in the final, but if he collects the gold medal next month, there's no telling what he'll get pierced to celebrate.

SPOTY prediction: Best hope will be if he's Britain's sole gold medallist in Beijing, but would definitely put the personality into SPOTY.


PAULA RADCLIFFE 16-1 (34, English, Athletics)
Having been done for by the heat and a course of dehydrating anti-inflammatories in Athens, Radcliffe's preparations for Beijing have been blighted by injury.

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Interview: Paula Radcliffe

She has not run a race in 2008 due to a fracture in her left femur, which is stubbornly refusing to heal, and may see her pull out of the GB squad before the end of this month.

The 2002 Sports Personality of the Year is desperate for Olympic gold in the marathon to complete her impressive medal collection, but with time running out it will require an effort of Herculean proportions.

SPOTY prediction: The odds are stacked against her, but Radcliffe is a born winner and if she pulls off an unlikely triumph in Beijing, the wave of public support could carry her to a SPOTY double.


ANDY MURRAY 20-1 (21, Scottish, Tennis)
Murray was viewed with suspicion by many folk below Hadrian's Wall after joking that he would be supporting "anyone but England" in the 2006 World Cup.

But he has since tamed his wildman image by getting a girlfriend, a haircut and a rein on his temper, and this year's Wimbledon proved to be a watershed moment as he finally won over the doubters by reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final.

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Murray's magic third set moment

OK, he got out-muscled by Nadal after unwisely flashing his biceps, but Murray's incredible win over Richard Gasquet in the previous round, from two sets and a break down, will live long in the memory.

SPOTY prediction: Missed his best chance of glory by failing to win Wimbledon, but if he can pull off a shock at Flushing Meadows, the phonelines will be buzzing from John O'Groats to Jedburgh.


LEE WESTWOOD 20-1 (35, English, Golf)
Fresh from cheering on his beloved Nottingham Forest to promotion, Westwood catapulted himself into SPOTY connection with a magnificent display at the US Open, where he agonisingly missed out on a three-way play-off.

Leading the field by a shot at the turn, Worksop's finest narrowly missed his putt at the 18th and it was left to Tiger Woods to triumph over Rocco Mediate in the battle of wounded knee.

Westwood was far from disheartened, though, and after moving back in the world's top 20 - with The Open and Ryder Cup to come - he could become the first golfer since Nick Faldo in 1989 to lift the SPOTY trophy.

SPOTY prediction: If Westwood can build on his US Open success with victory in the Open and/or the Ryder Cup, those odds will represent outstanding value come December.


BEST OF THE REST

There's plenty of contenders bubbling under the surface who don't quite make the top 10, led by teenage tennis sensation Laura Robson.

If we had mentioned her name in the last SPOTY update three months ago, chances are everyone would have said 'Laura who?' (unless her mum and dad happened to be reading).

In the space of two short weeks, the teenager became a household name after capturing the girls' singles title at Wimbledon, despite being unseeded and one of the youngest competitors in the event.

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Relive Robson's Wimbledon-winning moment

We shall, of course, conveniently overlook the fact that she was born in Australia (while still claiming Aussie cricketer Andrew Symonds as 'one of ours'), given that she represents the best chance of Grand Slam glory for a British woman since the days of Virginia Wade and Sue Barker.

Forget Giggs, Rooney and Ferdinand, the leading British name from Manchester United's double-winners is none other than Sir Alex Ferguson.

The fiery Scot may not have kicked a ball in anger since Harold Wilson was in power but someone at Victor Chandler is obviously fearing the hair-dryer treatment come December by offering astonishing odds of 16-1.

But unless he dusts off his old boots and takes Cristiano Ronaldo's place up front for the start of the season, the Fergie bandwagon will come to a juddering halt as the rules clearly state contenders 'must play a significant amount of their sport in the UK'.

If you really want to put your money on Sir Alex, best stick to the top coach award.

This year could prove to be a great one for our cyclists, three of whom are in the top 10 contenders.

Bradley Wiggins looks great value at a biggest price of 40-1. After clinching three golds at the 2008 Track Cycling World Championships, in the individual pursuit, team pursuit and madison events, our resident cycling expert assures me he could repeat the feat in Beijing. And if he does...bingo!

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Highlights: Hoy defends keirin World title

Wiggins' team-mate Chris Hoy is also in with a shout of three golds at the Olympics. Favourite for the individual sprint and the keirin, the team sprint is the one that could let him down, with the French seemingly in the box seat.

Last year's winner Joe Calzaghe picked himself off the floor to beat the legendary Bernard Hopkins in Vegas and maintain his unbeaten record, but it was not a vintage performance from the Welshman, now unbeaten in 45 fights.

Calzaghe is set to bring down the curtain on his glorious career at Madison Square Garden on 20 September, with a fight against the legendary Roy Jones jr - win that and he could become the first SPOTY winner to successfully defend his title.

Britain's top sailor Ben Ainslie has a great chance of winning gold in his third successive Olympics and surely has an each-way chance for SPOTY at long odds.

If they gave awards for biggest barnet, Ryan Sidebottom's mantelpiece would be creaking under the strain. England's most consistent bowler helped himself to an impressive 24-wicket haul in New Zealand but would need another mammoth performance against South Africa to haul himself into contention.

Kevin Pietersen is probably a better bet after stunning the cricket world with his outrageous left-handed sixes against New Zealand in a Twenty20 international. He followed that up with a fine 152 against his native South Africa - a couple more knocks like that and he could be there or thereabouts.

If you really want to pick a cricketer, you could do worse than 2005 SPOTY winner Andrew Flintoff - best-priced 499-1.

A persistent ankle injury has kept Freddie out of Test cricket since last year, but an impressive return to form for Lancashire in the Twenty20 game with Middlesex, where he took 3-17 and hit a brisk 50, sees him knocking on the door for the second Test against South Africa.

If he can perfom heroics in the remaining Tests and all the other contenders have a nightmare, he might, just might squeeze into the frame.

Finally, with The Open and Ryder Cup on the horizon, any one of a number of golfers could come into contention, particularly if they win both. To Lee Westwood, add Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Paul Casey and of course, dear old Monty, who always manages to stir himself from hibernation at this time of year.




see also
Who will win Sports Personality?
18 Apr 08 |  Sport Homepage
Sports Personality favourites
25 Oct 07 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality favourites
03 May 07 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality favourites
30 Aug 07 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality of 2007?
18 Jan 07 |  Sports Personality


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