Stars reveal their sporting highlights of the year
By Saj Chowdhury
"And the winner of the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award is..."
...anybody's guess, because rarely has there been a year in the event's long history where there have been so many strong contenders for the coveted prize.
One sportsman who must now be considered one of the hot favourites is Lewis Hamilton, following his historic and thrilling victory in the Formula One drivers' championship.
The 23-year-old will face very stiff competition from Team GB's Olympic heroes, which include gold medallists swimmer Rebecca Adlington, cyclist Chris Hoy and sailor Ben Ainslie, US Open finalist Andy Murray and boxer and last year's winner Joe Calzaghe, just to name a small selection.
Below is a guide to some of those in the frame for BBC Sports Personality of Year according to selected leading bookmakers - the official list of the final 10 contenders will not be announced until the start of December.
The final decision of who will win this year's main award will be decided by a public phone vote on the night of the event on Sunday 14 December.
You wait 20 years for British gold in the Olympic pool, then two come at once, and from the same person.
Adlington's achievements in Beijing were remarkable. At the age of 19, the Mansfield swimmer staked a big claim for a 'damehood' after snatching the 400m freestyle with a scintillating last 50m and then the 800m freestyle, in a world record time.
By doing so, the shoe-loving athlete became the first swimmer since Adrian Moorhouse to win Olympic gold and the first British swimmer to win two Olympic swimming events since Henry Taylor in 1908.
She recently told The Independent newspaper that she would love to compete in Strictly Come Dancing - if her feet move as well on land as they do in the water, then who would bet against her winning that too.
Ben Ainslie, 31
Olympics 2008 sailing gold medallist
Four Olympics and four medals, but of more significance, three of those have been gold - Ainslie is Britain's ruler of the waves.
He was king of the Laser in Sydney having won silver in the same class in Atlanta and at the last two Games the Macclesfield-born seaman mastered the larger Finn, winning gold in Athens and in Beijing this year.
Ainslie is involved in Britain's America's Cup bid and is looking to defend his Olympic Finn title at the 2012 London Games.
"Last time I combined preparing for the Olympics with the America's Cup and it dovetailed pretty well. It made me a better sailor," he said.
Joe Calzaghe, 36
Welshman Calzaghe would have been entitled to think he got the recognition he deserved when he landed last year's Sports Personality of the Year award.
His wins over Peter Manfredo and Mikkel Kessler took his record to 44-0 and boosted his status and popularity to such a level that the public voted in their droves for the man from Newbridge.
The 36-year-old rose to new heights earlier this year with an epic win over American Bernard Hopkins in their light-heavyweight clash in Las Vegas, in a fight that saw the Briton hit the canvas in the first round.
Calzaghe then hit the floor again before bouncing back up to end the challenge of another ring legend, Roy Jones Jr at Madison Square Garden in New York. That victory has surely seen his chances of winning a second Sports Personality title boosted.
Lewis Hamilton, 23
F1 world champion
He left it very, very late. But in the unpredictable conditions in Brazil, Hamilton swept aside the painful memories of the previous year to clinch his first Formula One world championship in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.
In doing so, he became the youngest winner of the F1 crown and the first Briton to manage the feat since Damon Hill in 1996.
Hamilton won five races during the season and finished on the podium on 10 occasions in total - he was even denied a Belgian Grand Prix victory after receiving a post-race penalty for an illegal manoeuvre.
The McLaren driver will be also looking to go one better at this year's Sports Personality of the Year, having finished second to boxer Joe Calzaghe at the 2007 event.
Chris Hoy, 32
Triple Olympics 2008 cycling gold medallist
Unassuming off the track, but a monster on it.
Hoy was one of the outstanding athletes of the Beijing Games and rightly took his place alongside the likes of compatriots Sir Steven Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Dame Kelly Holmes, Ben Ainslie, Rebecca Adlington and fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins in the group of great British Olympians after winning a remarkable three golds.
The Edinburgh sprinter went into the Games having already won gold in Athens, but expected to take the tally to four in total in Beijing - he did not disappoint.
Inside the space of week, Hoy overcame a gruelling schedule to win the team sprint, keirin and, finally, the individual sprint where he beat fellow Briton Jason Kenny to win the his third gold at one Games - the first Briton to do so in 100 years.
Andy Murray, 21
US Open finalist and five ATP wins (2008)
Murray's astonishing rise up the rankings gathered serious pace this season.
The man from Dunblane began the season ninth in the world, but five ATP wins, a quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon followed by his first Grand Slam final, the US Open, has catapulted him to fourth in the world.
Perhaps more significant is that he beat all three men in front of him this season, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and number one Rafael Nadal in the epic US Open semi-final.
This year Murray also became the first Briton to win back-to-back Masters series titles and the first Briton to win back-to-back ATP titles since Mark Cox in 1975.
Some would say true champions come to the fore when it matters - the 24-year-old did exactly that, twice in two years.
At the 2007 World Athletics Championships, Ohuruogu overtook Jamaican Novlene Williams in the final straight to win a shock gold in the 400m having only raced at five competitive meetings the year leading up to Osaka.
And in Beijing, some quarters accused her of being under-prepared after the athlete chose to race more 200m races. But Ohuruogu knew best, and utilised her speed work to good effect in the final straight, again, to pip Jamaica's Shericka Williams.
The Londoner, who is also the Commonwealth 400m champion, became the first British female to win the Olympic 400m crown and will be a strong bet to retain her title on home turf in four years.
If we are talking about personality then it would be hard to find another sports star who is as lively and enigmatic as Wiggins.
But the Londoner is also a phenomenal athlete and took his Olympic medals tally to six in total, after battling to two golds - in the team pursuit and the 4000m individual pursuit, following a bronze in Sydney and a bronze, silver and gold in Athens.
He is currently tied with Sir Steven Redgrave on the most number of medals won by a Briton at the Olympics, but is hoping to have the record all to himself after telling the BBC he wanted to compete at London 2012.
Wiggins also won the pursuit, madison and team pursuit at this year's world championships.
THE BEST OF THE REST
finally won the gold she lusted after in the women's road race producing a tremendous burst in the last few minutes. The 25-year-old from Glamorgan followed that with the world title, becoming the first cyclist to hold both major crowns in one year.
like Cooke, justified her tag as the best women's track cyclist in the world. The 28-year-old from Hertfordshire won two World Track Championships gold medals in the team sprint and sprint in Manchester before powering her way to an awesome sprint gold at the Olympics.
story is an ideal movie script. The Surrey athlete won silver in the quadruple sculls at the Athens Games before going one better the year after at the world championships. Injury forced her to quit the sport and she opted on to cycling. What a career move! After winning two golds at the world championships she clinched gold in the individual pursuit in Beijing.
will turn 14 on 11 November and her birthday will certainly be a memorable one after having won two Paralympic golds in the pool this year. Simmonds competed in five events in total at the last Games and is likely to be one of the stars of the show at London 2012 and for many Olympics to come.
And the waters produced more home-grown superheroes with Tim Brabants, in the K1 kayak, and sailor Paul Goodison also bringing back gold for the nation.
Meanwhile, James DeGale flew the flag for British boxing at the Olympics. The London middleweight beat Cuban Emilio Correa in the final to win Britain's first boxing gold since Audley Harrison in Sydney.
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