My thoughts on the best British sportsmen of 2013.
Leigh Halfpenny was runner-up to Andy Murray as BBC Sports Personality of the Year, probably with a lot of support from Welsh voters. He was the Player of the Tournament in the 6 Nations, had a great Lions Tour and was nominated for IRB World Player of the Year. In Rugby League Danny Brough was the Man of Steel in the Super League and nominated for world Player of the year.
Britain has a few current world champions at boxing. As ever with professional boxing the proliferation of world titles from diffrent governing bodies means that a world champion isn’t necessarily the best at that weight. The Ring Magazine gives a good overview of who really are the best boxers. Carl Froch is rated as the best British pound-for-pound boxer with the Ring Magazine rating him at 10th in the world and 2nd in the super-middleweights. He won an epic fight with Kessler but then was somewhat fortunate when the ref stopped his fight with George Groves. I think Froch would have gone on to win the fight but the stoppage was premature. Ricky Burns is rated as fourth best lightweight but only fought twice and one of those was drawn. WBA champ Scott Quigg also had one draw from his three championship fights at but isn’t even ranked by The Ring as best Briton at the super bantamweight. That goes to Carl Frampton who holds no titles but is rated second best overall. Stuart Hall, IBF bantamweight champion since December, doesn’t make the Top 10 at his weight.
David Florence won world titles at the canoe slalom at both the C1 and C2 classes. This was a unique achievement by a British paddler. In the season long world cup he wasn’t as successful, finishing 4th in the C1.
Mo Farah followed up his double gold at the Olympics with a repeat at the world championships. It seemed that his opponents have no idea how to beat him as their passive tactics in the finals of the 5000m and 10,000m just played into his hands again. They have to try something different because he won’t lose a race reduced to a 1500m by a slow early pace. Mo’s ability over the shorter distance was emphasised by his most remarkable performance of the year when he broke Steve Cram’s British 1500m record.
British cycling had another excellent year. Chris Froome secured a second consecutive win in the Tour de France for Britain. Once he had taken the yellow jersey he never really looked under threat. He was in fine form all season with a series of wins on the road building up to the Tour. The only place where he failed was at the world championships where rainy conditions didn’t help in a disappointing effort. On the track Jason Kenny won the world Keirin title but was far from his best form in the sprint. Young Simon Yates took a surprise gold in the points race.
Phil Taylor won his 16th world title at darts and had another excellent season until his surprise exit in the 2014 world title before Christmas of 2013. Scott Brash won the Global Champions Tour show jumping title and was third at the European championships. Also on horseback, Tony McCoy won his 18th successive jump jockeys title and rode his 4000th career win. His total for the 2012/13 season was good but not exceptional for a man who could be nominated for this award every year.
One of the things about going through the champions of the year is that I come across successes in British sport that I hadn’t heard about. Into this category come tumbling world champion Kristof Willerton and 8 ball pool world champion Tom Cousins. Also with a cue Ronnie o’ Sullivan made a remarkable return to competitive snooker by winning the world title following a break from the game. It was a great effort but with few other performances to back it up in 2013 he can’t feature in my top three.
On motorbikes Tom Sykes won the world Superbikes title, and consistency won Tai Woffinden the world speedway crown although he did only win one Grand Prix.
On the water Nick Dempsey became the first man to win two windsurfing world titles with a convincing win in his event but is only ranked 5th over the year. Ben Ainslie added to his legend when transforming the fortunes of the USA America’s Cup team when coming in as skipper of their yacht, although for me that counted more as a team effort.
Looking forward to Sochi the best hope for gold among the British men is probably James Woods at slopestyle freeskiing. Woods was ranked number one in the 2013 world cup and won bronze at the world championships.
Nick Matthew won his third world open squash title although he did catch a big break when the brilliant world number one Ramy Ashour had to withdraw from their semi-final.
That leaves the two big names of golf’s Justin Rose and Andy Murray in tennis. Rose won his first major when triumphing at the US Open. He has often flattered to deceive in previous majors but came good in this one. That was his only success of the year and he didn’t do well in the other majors. He finished the year ranked fourth. Murray’s year was badly affected by injury. He couldn’t play at the French Open and his attempt to defend the US Open title was doomed to failure. However, all of that was offset when he became the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title since 1936. In terms of the weight of history on his shoulders being lifted it was a huge moment but because of the lack of major results to back it up I don’t think his year was as good as 2012.
My choice for 3rd place is a difficult one but because of the high level of competition in tennis I have chosen Andy Murray. The top two are clear of the rest of the field for me. In second I have Chris Froome. In my opinion the British sportsman of 2013 is Mo Farah. Some have claimed he is the greatest British athlete ever. I can’t agree with that but I think that his achievements in 2013 make him the best in Britain for that year.