Cyclist Mark Cavendish wins BBC sports personality award

Dec 23, 2011

Fitting award for 'nonconformist champion' as UK's undervalued sport is at last recognised

MARK CAVENDISH was last night named BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The 26-year-old 'Manx Missile', who became the cycling world champion in the 2011 UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen, said he was "lost for words".

Cavendish said he was delighted to receive the award because it is "unheard of" for cycling to be recognised in a non-Olympic year. As The Daily Telegraph reports, he added: "It's a landmark in cycling. I take this on behalf of cycling.

"We can produce such champions from such a small place. To be nominated against nine inspirational people, I'm just lost for words."

Renowned for his spectacular ability to sprint, Cavendish is "a fitting winner for a new era", writes Barney Ronay in The Guardian. His victory "adds another strand to the emergence of British cycling from minor sport to well-resourced middleweight status."

It could even represent a "decisive moment of elevation for a sport that has for so long lurked energetically on the fringes".

Cavendish might have seemed an unlikely choice, not because cycling is a minority sport but because – as Seth Jacobson wrote on The Week online last month – he is no "nice guy", possessing something "not British" with his sheer determination to win.

As the Guardian reminds us, the "spiky" Manxman was ejected from the Tour de Romandie in 2010 after giving the V-sign to the press as he cruised over the finishing line in first place.

While the awards gave much-needed recognition to a minority sport which is undervalued in the UK, the shortlist had earlier attracted opprobrium for not including any women.

The Guardian reports that the ceremony received a "rather desperate feminising-over" with announcers observing that women "have contributed so much to sport this year" and an all-female final three competing for the Young Sports Personality award, which was won by golfer Lauren Taylor.

Second place in the senior version of the award went to golfer Darren Clarke, while world 5,000-metre champion Mo Farah finished third. There was a special lifetime achievement award for Britain's greatest Olympian, Sir Steve Redgrave.

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