Some of the best performing sportsmen of 2015 were:
Ashton Eaton (USA – Athletics) – world champion at decathlon setting a new world record.
Walid Ktila (Tunisia – Para Athletics) – four golds at the world championships
Kohei Uchimura (Japan – Gymnastics) – winner of a record sixth world all-round title at the world gymnastics championships.
Ma Long (China -Table Tennis) – world champion and world cup winner.
Ihar Boki (Belarus – Para Swimming) – seven golds and four world records at the world championships.
Adam Peaty (Great Britain – Swimming) – world champion at 50m and 100m breaststroke and world record breaker
Giles Scott (Great Britain – Sailing) – Finn world champion
Novak Djokovic (Serbia – Tennis) – winner of three grand Slam singles titles.
Jordan Spieth (USA – Golf) – winner of the first two majors of the year and world number one.
My assessment of the candidates:
Eaton produced a brilliant performance at the world championships to break the world decathlon record. However, that was his only decathlon of the year and he had to back that up to be nominated for my award.
Of the Para sportsmen Ktila won every distance at the IPC world athletics championships from 100m to 800m and during the year set two world records. Boki won golds in every stroke except breaststroke where he took silver. He won seven gold medals and set four world records. As always it is hard to assess parasports because of the lack of strength in depth but Boki’s achievements were so good as to make my shortlist.
Uchimura cemented his place as the greatest all-round male gymnast ever with his sixth world title. If my award was for career achievement he would be nominated but even though he won convincingly again he wasn’t quite at the great heights of his very best year.
Peaty had a great year winning three world titles and setting two world records. He has to be on the shortlist for Sportsman of the year.
Giles Scott had another perfect year winning every regatta he entered (six in total). He was world champion and world cup winner and hasn’t lost since April 2013. Peaty lost in short course races at the end of the year when the swimmers are at different levels of training and fitness so I can overlook them a little. In the main long course season Peaty was outstanding. He became the first British man to win two world long course titles at the championships since the 1970s. Add to that the fact that he set world records at two distances during the year including an Olympic distance event. No man from any country set a world long course record at any other events in 2015 so Peaty must have a claim to be the world male swimmer of the year and Swimming World voted him as such.
Ma Long had one of the greatest years in the history of table tennis. In 2015, Ma only lost once in international competition and just five times overall. Winning the World Cup, along with the WTTC, the ITTF World Tour tournaments, and the Grand Finals, in addition to being number one in the world. It wasn’t just that he was wining nearly every tournament, he was crushing all opponents and hardly dropped a set in many tournaments. This came despite injury problems causing him to miss some events. A sensational year sees him shortlisted for my Sportsman of 2015.
Djokovic had arguably the greatest year by any male singles tennis player since 1969. He won three of the Grand Slams and in the other one, the French, reached the final. The closest any man has come to the calendar Grand Slam for nearly fifty years. He won the Tour Finals at the end of the year and six top level tournaments in the year for a total of eleven titles in 2015. Bearing in mind what a tough era it is to dominate with two of the greatest players in history as opponents his achievements are even more notable. He is shortlisted for my award.
Jordan Spieth started the major season by winning the Masters and US Open, the first since 2002 to do that. He then came within a shot of a play-off for the Open and was 2nd in the PGA championship. He won five titles during the year including the FedEx cup where the $10 million bonus prize made him the highest earner for a year in the history of PGA golf. Despite such a year he was pushed for the world number one ranking at the end of the year by Jason Day who had a brilliant year himself. However, it was Spieth who finished as number one and took all the Tour awards at the end of 2015.
My three shortlisted names are:
Ma Long, Ihar Boki and Novak Djokovic.
Boki’s performances was outstanding but the limited opposition in his sport means I can’t put him first. Ma Long and Djokovic both had years nearly as good as it is possible to be in tough sports like theirs. However, Ma Long missed part of the year while Djokovic played all year against some of the best opposition in history. So my Sportsman of the Year for 2015 is Novak Djokovic.