Ahead of BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday 20 December, we handed over each of the six SPotY nominees to the Gazette writer who’s best-placed to explain why their sporting achievements in 2020 make them worthy of nomination.
Lewis Hamilton has had a record breaking 2020, equalling the great Michael Schumacher’s seven Formula One (F1) World Championships with his fourth consecutive title win.
The Brit now holds the record for most pole positions and most Grand Prix victories, overtaking Schumacher’s total of 91 wins to finish this season on 95 race wins – and counting.
Having already won the award in 2014 after his second World Championship, Hamilton’s name will appear in yet another record book if he wins this year’s SPotY. Only four people have won the title more than once: tennis player Andy Murray, boxer Henry Cooper, and fellow F1 drivers Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.
Just days after sealing this season’s Driver’s Championship, the Stevenage-born-driver was named the most influential Black person in Britain. The first and so far only Black driver to race an F1 car, and only the second to drive one even in testing, Hamilton topped Powerlist 2021 after campaigning for racial justice throughout his record-breaking year.
Hamilton broke the record for most British Grand Prix wins with his seventh win at Silverstone this year, and the circuit is yet another body to acknowledge Hamilton’s achievements. Silverstone’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, has recently renamed the International Pit Straight the ‘Hamilton Straight’.
2020 has seen Hamilton break records and reinforce his place in F1 history as one of the greatest drivers of all time. Aged 35 and at the peak of his dominance, Hamilton has time to move into the outright lead in total number of world championships with an eighth title in 2021 – and, through his racial justice advocacy, perhaps change the face of his sport.
It is remarkable to think that as recently as July, there was a serious thought that Stuart Broad might have played his last game of international cricket.
Perhaps the selectors never entertained that idea. With Broad’s friend and long-term opening partner James Anderson finally beginning to show signs of mortality, perhaps England weren’t ready to lose both of them in one go.
But Broad himself took the idea very seriously.
Having been left out in favour of Mark Wood for the first Test against the West Indies – the first time he had missed a home Test in eight years – he felt moved mid-game to publicly defend his record and his continued right to play for England.
He was honest without being bitter, hurt without being entitled, and absolutely convinced he deserved to play without being dismissive of those who were playing instead. It was, in its way, a masterpiece.
England lost the Test. The general consensus was that England had become obsessed with preparing an attack for the harder, faster pitches of Australia even though England were still 18 months away from touring there.
Broad returned for the next Test – and how.
The remaining five Tests of the summer brought him 29 wickets, enough by themselves to make him 2020’s leading Test wicket-taker at time of writing. And that’s before we go back and consider his heroic performances in South Africa at the start of the year.
He took those 29 wickets at a scarcely believable average of 13.41, and helped England emerge from what could have become a very long shortened summer with two Test series wins.
In doing so, he became the second England bowler, and seventh of any nation, to take 500 Test wickets, reaffirming how blessed England have been to have him and Anderson (600 and counting) leading their Test attack for so long.
He also rediscovered his long-dormant mojo with the bat, a feature of his early career but almost entirely absent since being shaken by a blow to the face from Indian fast bowler Varun Aaron in 2014. In the same Test that he reached the 500 mark, he blazed the third-fastest Test 50 in England’s history.
Broad started the summer a victim of English cricket’s Ashes hyperfocus. Were he to become the first cricketer to win SPotY in a non-Ashes year – the honours board currently reads Jim Laker in 1956, David Steele in 1975, Ian Botham in 1981 and Ben Stokes last year – he might go some way to breaking it.
That, perhaps, would be his greatest achievement of all.