By John Millington
TOUR de France champ Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins swept to victory yesterday in the Sports Personality of the Year competition.
Over a million people voted, 30 percent in favour of Wiggins, trouncing his nearest rivals Heptathlon Olympic Champion Jessica Ennis and British tennis star Andy Murray.
But there was no podium spot for 5km and 10km Olympic champion Mo Farah.
With such a strong field, someone was bound to lose out.
But the absence of Mo concerned me not just out of some athletics bias (and I am bias to track and field athletes) but to the whole emphasis of “sports personality” and how advertising influences peoples views of sport.
Wiggins achievement has been exceptional – the Tour De France is one of the most demanding sporting challenges, physically and mentally.
And his laid back, modest style has made him a marketing dream in a time when the public want stars that they can relate to in tough times not people who flash their wealth about.
But he has had the benefit of Sky team backing him up with all the media exposure that brings and a prominent cycling lobby.
Athletes like Mo Farah are not short of backup either, both financially and in terms of advertising opportunities as the Virgin posters adorning city walls show.
But in terms of sporting achievement, what Mo has done should have earnt him at least 3rd place.
The objective facts speak for themselves.
For greatness to be measured in sport you have surely have to look at how competitive a sport is, the intensity of the training and how accessible it is for working class and youth to enter it.
Middle distance running is a truly world sport.
Anyone with two legs and a heartbeat can do it.
Equipment costs are minimal even if you suffer from shin splints like I did.
The punishment you have to put your body through is up there with any sporting discipline and is the basis of all sports.
Wealth and background is not such a determining factor with minimal equipment required unlike cycling and tennis.
You don’t for instance see African cyclists challenging our top riders.
I remember running 70-80 miles a week (Mo does 120) for a whole winter once, whilst studying.
It was savage. Every part of my body cried out for me to stop. I needed ice baths just to stand up.
I know many good cyclists and although they have to spend more time on the bike to build up the necessary fitness, the recovery time is much shorter as there is no muscle damage from the pounding of the ground that runners do, day in day out.
And there are many different types of cycling disciplines, even for the same distances.
There is only one running discipline. You win the 5,000m on the track, you are the champion of 5km.
Running is the oldest sport and is the most natural of all sports.
Maybe Mo didn’t market himself enough.
His modest personality, his immigrant background should have made him the “peoples champion” as Wiggins has been called.
Alas Mo will have to settle for his unprecedented double gold medal at the Olympics this year.
I think he’ll manage.