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Scott Wilson Column: Who should be Sports Personality of the Year?
THERE have been times in the past when choosing the winner of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award effectively meant selecting the least worst of the country's sporting performers.
In 2001, David Beckham was chosen because of one free-kick. In 1997, Greg Rusedski won the award for losing in the US Open final. Three years earlier, Damon Hill walked away with the gong even though he didn't even win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship.
There have been plenty of occasions when it was hard to choose even one worthy candidate. Not this year.
After surely the greatest summer ever in British sport, it is difficult to whittle down the contenders to a ten-strong shortlist, let alone select an overall winner.
How do you compare the achievements of Bradley Wiggins, an Olympic gold medallist and the first Briton ever to win the Tour de France, with the successes of Andy Murray, an Olympic gold medallist and the first British male for 76 years to win a tennis Grand Slam?
Fourth Favourite: Jessica Ennis
Are Mo Farah's two Olympic athletics golds worth more than Jessica Ennis' one? Should we celebrate multiple champion Sir Chris Hoy's lengthy roll call of achievements or acknowledge Katherine Grainger's refusal to give up as she followed up three previous silver medals with a cherished gold?
Is David Weir Britain's foremost Paralympian, or does Ellie Simmonds deserve that crown?
And away from the Olympic and Paralympic Games, how should we measure Rory McIlroy's heroics as he won the USPGA title by eight shots?
It is a nigh-on impossible task, and don't forget we've still got the Ryder Cup, so often the source of some incredible stories, to come.
For me though, all nine of the names mentioned so far have to be on the shortlist. In any other year, they would all be worthy winners.
The identity of the tenth candidate is open to debate. It hardly needs saying that football, cricket and rugby union have not produced a viable contender.
If Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button claim the Formula One title, they'll probably make it on to the list.
If Luke Donald wins all his matches at the Ryder Cup and sinks the winning putt in the final singles game, perhaps he'll be involved.
Aside from that though, it's probably best to head back to the Games. Jonnie Peacock merits consideration after beating a top-class field including Oscar Pistorius to win the Paralympics T44 100m title.
Third Favourite: Mo Farah
Charlotte Dujardin did something no Briton had ever done before when she claimed team and individual Olympic gold in dressage.
But when it comes to creating history, no one can match Nicola Adams, who became the first woman ever to win an Olympic boxing gold when she out-pointed China's Ren Cancan in the Excel Arena.
The BBC's award is for a Sports Personality, and personalities don't come much bigger and brighter than Adams'. For that reason, as well as her fantastic sporting achievement, I'd add her to the list.
I wouldn't make her the winner, although it's hard to rule out too many others on the shortlist. Ennis' profile and popularity will guarantee strong support, while the huge popularity of the Paralympics could see Weir force his way into a top-three position when it comes to the public vote.
For me, though, the choice comes down to a head-to-head between Wiggins and Murray, a duo who have created history on both the Olympic stage and the recognised pinnacle of their chosen sport this summer.
Murray's achievements are remarkable, and the way in which he dug deep to beat Novak Djokovic in Monday's US Open final revealed a strength of character that has enabled him to take the final step that proved beyond so many of his talented British predecessors.
Yet if we are talking about character and commitment as well as talent, it is surely impossible to see beyond Wiggins.
He triumphed in the toughest sporting event going, and his stringent anti-drugs stance helped rebuild the image of cycling, a sport that has endured yet another difficult summer thanks to the Lance Armstrong scandal.
Then, as the nation turned to him with gold medals proving difficult to come by in the early days of the Olympics, he handled incredible pressure to triumph emphatically in the time trial.
He is supremely talented, yet remains the grounded mate you'd like to take to the pub. He deserves to be Sports Personality of the Year.
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