Some will say Chris Hoy and others will back Lewis Hamilton but neither of them really do it for me. Of course Hoy’s performances were amazing and to win three medals, particularly in the convincing manner he did, is almost beyond description. However, great though Hoy’s performances were, we need to bear in mind he was helped by the strongest team in track cycling with the most generous national funding programme, the best system and the leading equipment.
Hamilton, likewise was helped by the strong McLaren-Mercedes team and (let’s not forget) was two bends and a large chunk of good fortune away from topping Rob Smyth’s next edition of his great sporting losers blog.
No, the man I propose has had little help from a generous government programme or techies whose specifications can give him an extra split-second. The man I propose has been on a personal voyage in recent years from surly loser to gracious winner, making the tough decisions and sacrifices on his own.
The bald facts show that this summer Andy Murray reached a Wimbledon quarter final (then his career Grand Slam best); won two Masters series in a row (Tim Henman, by contrast, won one in his entire career); reached a US Open final; and is now the number 4 in the world. He beat the three best players in the world at various points and is now generally regarded as one of the very best all-round players. When was the last time a British tennis player entered a major tournament not played on grass as one of the favourites? These facts are only half the story though: Murray’s has gone from a point where his volcanic temper was a massive problem to where he can channel it positively. Even more that this – he has done this in his own way, making difficult decisions and maturing himself, rather than having a team of advisers appointed by others making the tough calls.
There are those that will say that the award is for the top sports personality and argue that Murray’s lack of natural charm precludes him. The 22 year old is hardly like to be offered his own prime time TV show but this is just one aspect of personality. Another is character and the will and desire to do things your own way, making the necessary sacrifices to improve. Murray showed plenty of personality when he left his native Dunblane for Barcelona at the tender age of fifteen; Murray showed plenty of personality when he ditched the coach appointed by the LTA and put his own advisors, led by a little known mediocre former player Miles Maclagan, in charge; and Murray showed plenty of personality when he outplayed Nadal (who had been invincible all summer) on the big stage in Flushing Meadows.
Murray has, in short, shown the character, will and temperament necessary to be an absolutely top sportsman. It is that personality we should be celebrating, and not the ability to fire off witty one-liners!