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Sports Personality race gathers pace

Andrew Strauss, Phillips Idowu, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray and Tom Daley

By Marc Vesty

With every sporting success the race to be crowned 2009 Sports Personality of the Year gets tighter.

BBC Sport gauges who's hot and who's not among the front runners in this year's race... let the deliberations commence.

RED HOT

DAVID HAYE (29 - Boxing)
Haye's stock has been rising for some time, but the Briton finally realised his dream of becoming heavyweight champion of the world with a points victory over Russian Nikolay Valuev in Nuremberg.

David Haye lands a right hook

Listen to 5 live commentary as Haye clinches the title

The 29-year-old won the WBA belt with a majority decision over his 7ft rival, winning the fight on two judges' scorecards, with the other judge scoring it even.

The future looks rosy for the Londoner, who is the first Briton to hold a world heavyweight crown since Lennox Lewis retired in 2003.

SPOTY chances: Becoming world champion by beating a man seven stone heavier than him was an impressive feat by Haye, but was it enough to put Haye's name in the frame for SPOTY??


JENSON BUTTON (29 - Formula 1)
Button looked unstoppable at the start of the season, prompting suggestions that he might have the F1 championship - and the Sports Personality trophy - wrapped up by July.

Jenson Button

Brazilian Grand Prix in 90 seconds

Fast forward to October and Button finally fulfilled a boyhood dream by securing a maiden world title in the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.

The 29-year-old recovered from 14th to finish fifth in Sao Paulo to succeed compatriot Lewis Hamilton and become Britain's 10th world champion.

SPOTY chances: Button will surely be a front runner after lifting this year's F1 title. But will that be enough to make him the fifth racing driver to triumph at SPOTY?


BETH TWEDDLE (24 - Gymnastics)
Tweddle was crowned world champion in front of her home crowd after a stunning performance on the floor at London's O2 Arena.

Floor gold delights Tweddle

It was a first medal on the floor for the 24-year-old Liverpudlian, who was world champion on uneven bars in 2006.

Tweddle has refused to rule out competing at the Olympics in 2012, where the popular gymnast would perform at the same venue.

SPOTY chances: Becoming world champion on home soil will have done her chances no harm, but will it be enough to put her into SPOTY contention?


CARL FROCH (32 - Boxing)
Froch sent his career soaring to new heights in April when he defended his WBC super-middleweight title in sensational fashion with a 12th-round knockout of former champion Jermain Taylor.

Carl Froch
Froch is unbeaten in 26 professional fights with 20 by knockout

The Nottingham boxer made his second successful defence of the year with a points victory over American Andre Dirrell in the new Super Six series.

Over the next two years Froch will fight four more times fights against best super-middleweights in the world, a mouth-watering prospect for the WBC title holder.

SPOTY chances: Success in the Super Six series will make Froch an international superstar - it may also make him a future SPOTY champion.


JESSICA ENNIS (23 - Heptathlon)
What a comeback for the Sheffield-born athlete after the heartbreak of missing the Beijing Olympics through injury last year.

Jessica Ennis wins gold in Berlin

Ennis won Britain's first ever heptathlon gold at the World Championships with a dominant performance in Berlin to seal what she called her "best year ever".

In doing so she fell just 100 points short of the British heptathlon record held by Denise Lewis, but at the tender age of 23 it looks like we could see a lot more of Ennis in the future.

SPOTY chances: A tremendous performance by an extremely popular athlete who is likely to be a real contender - if she is voted into this year's top 10.


ANDREW STRAUSS (32 - Cricket)
Strauss - England's Ashes-winning captain - emerged as the man to pull England's cricketers together after Kevin Pietersen's captaincy ended in controversy.

Strauss was overwhelmed by the Ashes victory

The opener led from the front, scoring more runs than anyone else as England saw off Australia 2-1 to regain cricket's most prestigious prize.

Strauss, named as the Man of the Series, has set England the target of becoming the best team in the world, and he will get the chance to take the next step on that journey very soon.

SPOTY chances: "Ashes-winning captain" looks good on the CV and should make Strauss a contender for a SPOTY top-10 spot.


STUART BROAD (23 - Cricket)
You don't get compared to Andrew Flintoff and Ian Botham without being a bit special. When it mattered most, Broad thrust himself into cricketing stardom with one glorious Ashes performance.

England in fantastic position - Broad

In a breathtaking spell Broad took 5-37 to help bowl out Australia for 160 on day two of the deciding Ashes Test at The Oval.

Broad ended up as England's highest wicket-taker in the series and also scored two half-centuries, although only time will tell whether comparisons with "Beefy" or "Freddie" are warranted.

SPOTY chances: Great sportsmen tend to have impeccable timing and Broad's Ashes winning spell with the ball at The Oval could not have been more perfectly scheduled.

Broad could be in with a chance of a top 10 spot, especially if he can keep his good form up.


ANDREW FLINTOFF (31 - Cricket)
When England last won the Ashes in August 2005, Flintoff picked up the Sports Personality of the Year trophy the following December.

Flintoff wants England domination

Life will never be the same for Flintoff after all-rounder bowed out of Test cricket with a second Ashes series win.

Of course, Flintoff went out on a high. A match-winning 5-92 burst at Lord's was followed by his incredible run out of Ricky Ponting in the final Test as England's talisman finished his Test career in fairytale fashion.

SPOTY chances: Flintoff will go down as a true British sporting legend, adored by fans up and down the land - but could he become the first SPOTY double-winner since Damon Hill's 1994 and 1996 triumphs?


ANDY MURRAY (22 - Tennis)
Despite not claiming a Grand Slam title, Murray has had an incredible year which included reaching world number two in the men's rankings.

Murray cautious over rankings chances

A Wimbledon semi-final defeat by Andy Roddick threatened to derail the Murray bandwagon but the Scot proved he is made of the right stuff by winning his sixth title of 2009 with a clinical victory over Mikhail Youzhny in the Valencia Open.

There was disappointment at the US Open where Murray was beaten by Marin Cilic in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, but the Scot has still had a stunning season.

SPOTY chances: SPOTY glory may hinge on whether Murray can win the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena.


TOM DALEY (15 - Diving)
Competing at the Beijing Olympic games last year at the tender age of 14 made Daley famous across the world.

Homecoming parade for diver Daley

This year however, Daley has moved onto another level after a stunning final dive won the 15-year-old a gold medal in the 10m platform at his first World Championships.

Daley will now have to deal with huge expectations in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012 but the down-to-earth Devon-based diver has shown he can deal with the pressure.

SPOTY chances: Daley's achievement at the Worlds in Rome was as impressive as it was unexpected, but is it still too soon for the 2007 Young Sports Personality of the Year winner to take the main trophy?


MARK CAVENDISH (24 - Cycling)
After crossing the line to win the final-stage sprint on the Champs-Elysees, his sixth stage win on this year's Tour de France, Cavendish said that all his dreams had come true.

Cavendish elated with Tour finish

Cavendish's British record of 10 Tour stage wins sets him apart as the king of British road sprinting.

And despite missing out on winning the Tour's green jersey, the Manxman has established himself as a master of his art.

SPOTY chances: Cavendish is the king of the late sprint but can he follow in the slipstream of fellow cyclists and former winners Sir Chris Hoy and Tom Simpson?


PHILLIPS IDOWU (31 - Athletics)
Idowu struck gold on the world stage on a warm August evening in Berlin, leaping a personal-best 17.73m in the men's triple jump to triumph for Great Britain at the World Athletics Championships.

Phillips Idowu

Gold a long time coming - Idowu

The title helped make up for his disappointment in Beijing the previous year when he took silver after being pipped to the Olympic gold by Portugal's Nelson Evora.

The Hackney-born athlete has already earned an impressive medal haul, with golds at the Commonwealth Games and European and World Indoor Championships.

SPOTY chances: Idowu will forever remember 2009 for his achievements in Berlin - can he make another big leap and land the Sports Personality crown?


AMIR KHAN (22 - Boxing)
From Olympic silver medallist to world champion in the space of five years - and he is still only 22.

I'm in the best shape ever - Khan

The Bolton boxer produced two of his best performances in 2009, beating the legendary three-weight world champion Marco Antonio Barrera in March before going on to land the WBA world light-welterweight title with victory over Andreas Kotelnik.

Khan is now set to defend his WBA light-welterweight crown for the first time against Ukrainian Dmitriy Salita.

SPOTY chances: Khan has come of age and is ready to make the big step up and fight the best in the world. But has the likeable young boxer done enough to land this year's SPOTY crown?


SIZZLING

The Swimming World Championships saw an array of British success with the GB team winning seven medals in Rome.

Records were sent tumbling as Gemma Spofforth won the 100m backstroke in a new world record time while Liam Tancock broke the world record to win gold in the 50m backstroke.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Olympic silver medallist Keri-Anne Payne won the women's 10km open water race in a sprint finish and Joanne Jackson raced to medals in the 400m freestyle, 800m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle.

Claire Taylor
Taylor was the World Cup player of the tournament

Moving on to cricket, England's Claire Taylor was the player of the tournament as she led her side to World Cup glory with 324 runs at an average of 64. She also became the first woman to be named one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in April.

Since then England have won the women's ICC World Twenty20 and the women's Ashes, surely putting them in the frame for SPOTY Team of the Year and perhaps handing captain Charlotte Edwards a chance of making the SPOTY top 10.

Wayne Rooney could potentially find himself in the top 10 after another successful year at Manchester United

Rooney has also been in stunning form for England helping Fabio Capello's side qualify for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Meanwhile, teammate Ryan Giggs could also be in the running after an incredible 2009 in which the Welshman won the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award for the first time in his career at the age of 35.

Peerless jockey Tony McCoy became the first man to ride 3,000 winners over jumps in Britain and Ireland when he rode Restless D'Artaix to victory in February.

British cycling's golden girl Victoria Pendleton retained her world sprint title at the 2009 Track World Championships in Pruszkow and continues to be a dominant force.

Another cyclist who has had an unbelievable year is Bradley Wiggins. The three-time Olympic champion finished an incredible fourth at this year's Tour de France and announced himself as one of the best road riders in the world.

Chrissie Wellington won her third successive World Ironman Championship title in Kona, Hawaii, and set a new course record in the process, a staggering achievement for a woman who has never been beaten in an Ironman triathlon.

Mara Yamauchi finally ran from out of Paula Radcliffe's shadow with her second place finish at the 2009 London Marathon in a personal-best time. Injury robbed her of the chance to compete at the World Championships and may make it a struggle for her to reach this year's top 10.

Bradley Wiggins
Wiggins climbed into contention with his performance in France

Catriona Matthew became the first Scottish woman to clinch a major title when she won the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes. An incredible achievement considering she had given birth 11 weeks before the competition.

Other names in the frame could include John Higgins. The Scot is no stranger to Sheffield having crushed 2005 champion Shaun Murphy 18-9 to win a third world title in May.

And Stoke-on-Trent's Phil Taylor has had another incredible year winning a 14th world darts championship in January and a 10th World Matchplay title in July. The Darts legend holds all of the PDC's major ranking titles at present.

England spinner Graeme Swann enjoyed a successful Ashes series and could put himself in the frame for a place in the SPOTY top 10 if he keeps up his fine form.


2008 TOP THREE

CHRIS HOY (33 - Cycling)
Since winning three gold medals last year in Beijing Hoy's life has changed dramatically.

Arise Sir Chris - Chris Hoy is knighted

The Scotsman was crowned 2008 Sports Personality of the year in December and received a knighthood from the Queen in June.

However, on a sporting level, 2009 started badly for Sir Chris after a spectacular crash during the Keirin final at the World Cup event in Denmark ruled him out of the Track World Championships.

Hoy has hit back at the end of the year however, winning the Keirin, the individual sprint and team sprint titles at the National Track Cycling Championships.

SPOTY chances: Few would bet on "The Real McHoy" making the top 10 this year due to injury, but he will be back.


LEWIS HAMILTON (24 - Formula 1)
Hamilton's dramatic F1 world title win in Brazil saw him take second place at SPOTY 2008, but this season started as a struggle for the McLaren driver.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton hails McLarens fantastic improvement

However, the Englishman's season was kick-started when he won the Hungarian Grand Prix before finishing runner-up in the European Grand Prix and winning in Singapore.

Hamilton finished third in Brazil thanks to some classic overtaking and proved to his doubters there is every chance he will be back to challenge next season.

SPOTY chances: Hamilton may have missed out on this year's F1 championship but the character he has shown to comeback after a poor start could mean he is in with a chance of featuring in the SPOTY top 10.


REBECCA ADLINGTON (20 - Swimming)
Double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington won bronze medals in the 400m free and the 200m freestyle relay at the World Swimming Championships in Rome.

I need to buckle down - Adlington

However, the 20-year-old was tipped for gold in the 800m freestyle but only managed to finish fourth leaving her disappointed and determined to stay out of the media spotlight so she can focus on swimming.

SPOTY chances: Adlington was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours list after her exploits in Beijing and remains a national treasure. but she may struggle to make it into this year's SPOTY top 10.



see also
Sheffield gets Sports Personality
30 Apr 09 |  Sports Personality
Hoy named BBC Sports Personality
14 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality photos
14 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
GB cycling team secure BBC double
14 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Simmonds named Young Personality
14 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Sprinter Bolt wins Overseas award
14 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
BBC Sports Personality 2008 as it happened
14 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality


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