WRITTEN FOR THE LONDON 2017 WEBSITE ON BEHALF OF BRITISH ATHLETICS
With the 60th edition of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards heading to Glasgow next month, London 2017 speaks to the athletics stars of past and present who are involved in the ceremony whilst gathering their thoughts on the IAAF and IPC World Athletics Championships coming to the British capital in less than three years…
No fewer than 17 athletes have won the BBC accolade – most recently Dame Kelly Holmes in 2004 – and on Sunday December 14th, track super mum Jo Pavey will join nine other contenders in the race for the honour.
With her place on the BBC SPOTY award shortlist announced on Monday, the four-time Olympian revealed:
“When it was announced, I was totally surprised and shocked and it also felt very surreal, I feel very honoured. The whole year has been a massive surprise to me – I had never achieved a gold at a major championships before. I was therefore extremely surprised for it to happen when I was a 40-year-old busy mum and just coming back from having a baby.
“There has been so many amazing performances by athletes in the British team this year, I feel very humbled to be nominated as an athlete. It will be very exciting to attend the event. Gav (Pavey’s husband) and some other members of my family will be attending too, but I think Jacob and Emily (her children) are a bit too young to sit still!”
Having stormed to European 10,000m gold and Commonwealth 5,000m bronze this summer – less than a year after giving birth to her second child – 41-year-old Pavey is the sport’s sole representative, having captured the hearts of the nation with her humble and friendly demeanour.
She has also helped judge the BBC SPOTY Unsung Hero award:
“It was an honour to be asked to be on the panel for the BBC unsung hero, although it was very tough, too. I felt very humbled to hear about all the amazing people who have given so much time to benefit others and made such a difference. I was also thrilled to meet last year’s winners, Joe and Maggie Forber. All the nominees were absolutely fantastic. I am also so grateful to volunteers – if it wasn’t for them, I would never have been able to have an athletics career.”
Despite her status as a masters athlete, competitive retirement is definitely not on Pavey’s mind:
“When London was announced as the host of the 2017 IAAF World Championships, I was thrilled as it’s great to have another championships on home soil. However, I was definitely thinking that I would be long retired and there would be no chance of competing. I thought of it as an opportunity to go and support.
“A year ago, London 2017 would definitely not have been in my plans. However, the last few months have made me think that perhaps it could be a possibility. I would love to make it to the Olympics and if I did achieve that, I suppose it would be tempting to try and squeeze another year – it would certainly be amazing to be able to compete in the Olympic stadium again.
“I have great memories from competing in London 2012, the atmosphere was amazing. To be honest though, I’m not complacent about how difficult it will be to qualify for the Olympics and beyond. There are a lot of good girls coming through but it would be exciting to make a fifth Olympics and the last few months have made me feel as though it might be a bit more realistic than I previously thought.”
Meanwhile, two former athletics champions joined a panel of 12 to select the 10 nominees including Pavey – 11-time Paralympic champion and two-time IPC world champion, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion and two-time world championship silver-medallist, Denise Lewis.
Grey-Thompson – herself a three-time winner of the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award – explained:
“Sports Personality of the Year is always a great event and very exciting. It was tough to pick the top 10 because there has been so many amazing performances.
“I think London 2017 is going to do a great job and I was delighted that the IAAF and IPC championships are going to be held in the same venues. I think that the passionate sports fans that we have in the UK will do the country and our athletes proud.”
Meanwhile, 2013 nominee and 2012 Paralympic T34 100m and 200m champion, Hannah Cockcroft joined European 100m bronze medallist, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey on the selection panel for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award.
World junior heptathlon and high jump champion, Morgan Lake – 17 – has made the shortlist after recently being named the IAAF’s Rising Star of the year, whilst IPC European T54 800m silver medallist, Jade Jones, 18, is also nominated.
Cockcroft – the 2011 and 2013 IPC world championship T34 100m and 200m gold medallist – said:
“I had a fantastic day being on the panel, I think it is fantastic that young people are getting the recognition they deserve for their achievements through this award and that they are being recognised on a national stage. It was incredibly tough to help choose a shortlist! There were so many deserved winners.”
The 22-year-old continued:
“When the 2017 IPC World Championships were announced to take place in London back in 2012, I was hugely excited! We had just come off the back of the most successful Paralympic Games ever and as a double gold medallist, I was (and still am) riding the wave of excitement from it.
“So to have it come back and be able to live the most incredible moments of your life again, felt like a dream come true! But by the time 2017 comes around, I will have tougher competition and the race will be fiercer so I think it will be even better than the first time round! Hopefully for myself and the spectators!”
“This time, we have true fans and people will know our stories, our names and our faces. The goal is clear – two gold medals, three if the events programme allows. Whatever race they give to the T34 women in 2017, I will line up for with the intention of winning.”
Aikines-Aryeetey claimed the award himself in 2005 and the 26-year-old will be keen to replicate his 2009 world 4x100m bronze medal-winning performance at London 2017, following gold in the European relay final this summer.
Previous former athletics winners of the BBC SPOTY award are:
1954 Sir Chris Chataway
1955 Gordon Pirie
1963 Dorothy Hyman
1964 Mary Rand
1968 David Hemery
1972 Mary Peters
1974 Brendan Foster
1978 Steve Ovett
1979 Sebastian Coe
1982 Daley Thompson
1983 Steve Cram
1987 Fatima Whitbread
1991 Liz McColgan
1993 Linford Christie
1995 Jonathan Edwards
2002 Paula Radcliffe
2004 Dame Kelly Holmes
To vote for Jo Pavey, you can register to vote for free during the show here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/sports-personality/30172271