Sports Personality of the Year Award Celebrates Banner Year for British Athletes

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(Editor's note: as anticipated, Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Sports Personality of the Year Award.)

The social event of the month is upon us and for once, it doesn't involve Will or Kate…although I bet Prince Harry has a ticket. The BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award ceremony, now in its 58th year, will be held on Sunday at ExCel London. The event gathers the country's most athletic men and women to celebrate the year in sport.

The red carpet will be filled with athletes looking spectacular — and maybe a little uncomfortable — suited, booted and dressed up to the nines. And if you don't look the part, someone will notice. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney won the Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2002 and accepted it with his tie all crooked, top button undone and chewing gum in his mouth — and my mum still doesn't like him to this day.

The Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award is one of the most coveted trophies in Britain, voted on by the general public. Everyone will be there to watch the proceedings: current elite sports stars, sports personalities from yesteryear and perhaps even racehorses. What with today's prize money, contract values and sponsorship deals, this could be the wealthiest gathering of humans ever. I dread to think what the insurance cost will be.

Although it is called the Sports Personality award, a quick look at previous winners shows that some don't really scream "personality." Formula One champs Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill both won the award twice in the 1980s and '90s, yet personalities they were not; in fact, they were asked many times if they had sued the charm school. Steve Davis, snooker champ on no less than six occasions, won the SPOTY in 1988. His self-deprecating middle name was "interesting." Nick Faldo in 1989? Puuhleease. Low-key Princess Anne won in 1971. That says it all, really. Ryan "at the end of the day it gets dark" Giggs won in 2009. Zzzzzz.

This all means it's really an award for sporting achievements. If you can be good at what you do AND be funny, witty and have a media-friendly personality, that helps, too. Cyclist Mark Cavendish, last year's winner, has plenty of personality: He's both dashing and sometimes controversial, a perfect combination in the sporting world.

This year, the frontrunners for the award all have 2012 Olympics success as their calling cards, making this year's SPOTY gathering a gold-medal love-in. And I'm cool with that. Here are the bookies' favourites:

Jessica Ennis: Winner of the Women's Heptathlon gold medal, Jessica was the darling of Team GB, and she was all over the country as the face of the games. And why not? She looks pretty damn good in those shorts, and with an infectious pearly-white smile, she quickly became everyone's favourite female athlete ever when those tears ran down her cheeks on the podium.

Mo Farah: Winner of both the 5,000-metre and 10,000-metre gold medals in London, Mo captured the sporting world's imagination with his now-famous "Mobot" celebration. Even Usain Bolt copied it. I was disappointed when I read it was merely the "M" from the "YMCA" dance, but still, Britain fell in love with him instantly. I had my friend's 5-year-old daughter on my shoulders as I cheered him on for the 5,000: "Come on, Moe! COME ON, MOE!"

Andy Murray: Ahh Muzza. Winner of Olympic gold. Winner of the US Open. He will have more vengeance this next year and the next. If anyone had any doubts about Andy and his allegiance to Britain, those were put to bed as he tonked Roger Federer and draped the Union Jack flag around him on the Olympic podium. It was a special moment. But to tennis fans, the US Open win over Novak was the real moment that they had been waiting for. Not for Queen. Not for country. Just for Andy. As he sank to his knees, we all knew he had finally made it.

Bradley Wiggins: "Wiggo! Wiggo! Wiggo!" That was the crowd chanting around Hampton Court Palace as Bradley Wiggins won the fourth Olympic gold medal of his career for the road time trial in Cycling. The self-declared people's champion, he chose to celebrate by mingling with the fans who adored him. Hard to imagine that just weeks earlier, he became the first Brit ever to win the Tour de France yellow jersey. Clean, hardworking and a dedicated family man, Brad was on everyone's minds before the Olympics even began.

There were so many other great achievements in British Sport in 2012 that it's hard to justify a short list like the above. Huge honorable mentions go to Ben Ainslie (Olympic gold AGAIN in Sailing), Nicola Adams (first boxing gold medal for a British woman), Sir Chris Hoy (more gold medals in track cycling) and of course Paralympian medalists Ellie Simmonds, David Weir and Sarah Storey.

Who do you think will win? I am going for Bradley Wiggins. And I just hope to God that Wayne Rooney turns up looking smart.

by Matt Goff

Top: Paralympic medalist Ellie Simmonds (center right) and Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins (far right) are among those who might win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award for 2012. Here, they're shown at the Pride Of Britain awards, showing off fellow SPOTY contender Mo Farah's signature move with Prince Charles. (Photo by Ian Vogler, WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Upper right: The awards ceremony tends to be a glamorous affair, as demonstrated by David and Victoria Beckham, with their children Brooklyn, Cruz and Romeo, at the 2010 event. (Photo by Tony Woolliscroft/Getty Images)

Left: Ebullient gold medalist Jessica Ennis, shown at the London 2012 Victory Parade for Team GB and Paralympic GB athletes, is a fan favourite. (Photo by Dan Kitwood, WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Lower right: Cyclist Mark Cavendish, with girlfriend Peta Todd at last year's awards ceremony, was the SPOTY winner in 2011. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage)

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