My list of sportsmen from Britain and Northern Ireland that I considered because they had an outstanding 2014 was:
Darren Burnett (Bowls) – world indoor and Commonwealth singles champion.
Carl Froch, Scott Quigg, Kell Brook, Carl Frampton (Boxing) – world champions
Adam Peaty – Commonwealth champion at 100m, European champion at 100m and 50m breaststroke.
Greg Rutherford – European Champion at long jump
Bradley Wiggins – world road time trial cycling champion
Gee Atherton and Josh Bryceland – world downhill mountain bike champion and world cup winner respectively.
Lee Pearson – three golds at world championships in paradressage
Gareth Bale – Champions League winner with Real Madrid
Max Whitlock – second in world all-round gymnastics championships. Three golds at the Commonwealth Games
Rory McIlroy – winner of two majors in golf
A P McCoy – won his 19th consecutive national hunt jockeys title and rode over 200 winners in the 2013/4 season.
Lewis Hamilton – world F1 champion
Tim Reeves – World Sidecar champion
Sam Burgess – international rugby league player of the year
Giles Scott – Finn Class Sailing world champion
This is my assessment of the different candidates.
As always with boxing it is hard to give them my award as pros fight only rarely. It has to be an outstanding win or based on longevity to have a chance of winning my approval. Carl Froch certainly had a high profile win when he knocked George Groves in a huge fight in terms of profile. However, Groves isn’t really a great fighter in world terms and that was Froch’s only fight of the year. Frampton won two fights and took the IBF title, Quigg defended his WBA title three times and Brook took the IBF welterweight title with his second win of the year. Evaluating the value of a world title in boxing is hard when there are so many titles available. To try and get some perspective I like to look at how Ring Magazine rates them. At their respective weights this puts Froch and Frampton 2nd, Brook 3rd and Quigg 4th. Note also that Amir Khan is 4th at his weight but holds no proper world title. So it is hard for me to put any boxers in my top three.
Burnett had an outstanding year in the major events winning the world indoor and Commonwealth Games titles but is only ranked 7th in the official world rankings.
Adam Peaty – Commonwealth champion at 100m, European champion at 100m and 50m breaststroke. He was top of the world rankings at 50m and 100m. At the European Championships in the semi-finals he broke the world 50m breaststroke record. The 50m is a non-Olympic event so slightly easier to break a record in but still a great achievement. The only blemish in championships this summer was a silver in the 50m at the Commonwealths. Won three silvers at the world short-course champs.
Rutherford had arguably his best year competitively. He broke the British record in a very low-key meeting early in the year and although he never got close to that mark again he took gold at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. Over the season he was probably the second best long jumper in the world.
Wiggins had a very up and down year but came good in his final attempt to win the world road time-trial title. Britain currently dominates downhill mountainbiking with Atherton taking the world title but only one world cup race and Bryceland winning the world cup and two races in the season, and coming 2nd in the world championships. The sport still isn’t an Olympic discipline and tends to be weaker in depth than those that are.
Lee Pearson won three golds at the world championships in paradressage and has been dominant in the sport for years. However, the numbers doing the sport are limited.
Gareth Bale – was a Champions League winner with Real Madrid and scored a decisive goal in the final. He had a good season but it’s hard to say that it was truly outstanding.
Max Whitlock – second in world all-round gymnastics championships a little fortunate to qualify for the all-round final at the world championships after a poor qualification. However, he got in when a team mate withdrew and made the most of his chance coming second to arguably the greatest male gymnast in history. Earlier in the year he won three golds at the Commonwealth Games including all-round gold and a gold on Pommel at the European Championships.
Rory McIlroy – winner of the Open and the USPGA in golf. He is number one golfer in the world by a long way having also won the PGA at Wentworth and another important PGA tour event. He was also part of the winning European Ryder Cup team. Golf is a very competitive sport at the top level so to win two majors in a year and dominate the rankings and end of year US PGA Tour Awards is a superb achievement.
A P McCoy – yet again was the champion and was on his way to 300 winners in a calendar year before injury halted his progress. Not his highest total of winners in the 2013/4 season but over 200 again.
Lewis Hamilton – as usual with Formula 1 the car is a key factor in who wins the title. This year this was clearly the case with Mercedes having the best car by a mile. This means that we can’t be sure who is really the best driver. We know that Hamilton is better than his team mate Rosberg and suspect he is one of the top two or three on the grid but when your car is so much better than everyone else’s it is hard to evaluate.
Tim Reeves – World Sidecar champion he won the Superside World Championship and the World F2 Sidecar Trophy making it six world titles in his career. How strong is the competition in sidecar racing?
Sam Burgess – the RLIF international player of the year in rugby league. He was the man of the match in Australia’s NRL Grand Final when taking South Sydney to victory despite sustaining a broken cheekbone early in the game.
Giles Scott – Finn Class Sailing world champion winner of all six regattas in which he competed in 2014. He won the world championship, European Championship and Olympic test event in Rio. Sailing is a hard sport to dominate so completely and this was an outstanding effort.
Looking at the achievements here I think that three have claims above the others.
My top three are:
3rd Adam Peaty
2nd Rory McIlroy
1st Giles Scott
It needed something special to beat McIlroy who, before I started, I was sure would win. However, Scott had a perfect season at Finn racing and I couldn’t find a reason to deny him as my choice for Sportsman of the Year 2014.
2012 Bradley Wiggins (Cycling)
2013 Mo Farah (Athletics)