Selfless acts of courage highlighted in emotional ceremony
While Lewis Hamilton took the plaudits for being named the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday, it was the undercard of award winners who provided a heartwarming glow to the scaled-back ceremony.
Hamilton, the 35-year-old formula One star from Stevenage who equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships with his fourth consecutive triumph in the autumn, beat Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson and record-breaking jockey Hollie Doyle into the minor placings in the viewers’ vote.
World boxing champion Tyson Fury, England cricket Stuart Broad, and snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan had also been shortlisted.
It was Hamilton’s second victory in the competition – he has also been runner-up four times – but the real stars of an exceptionally emotional night were those whose selfless acts propelled them into the spotlight.
Such as Captain Sir Tom Moore, who was the recipient of the BBC’s annual Helen Rollason Award, given for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity. The centenarian became a household name during lockdown when he set out to walk 100 laps of his garden before his milestone birthday, with the ambition of collecting a few hundred pounds for the NHS.
He raised £39million and instantly became a national treasure.
In recognition of his phenomenal effort, a ‘Captain Tom’ Young Unsung Hero Award was launched with the aim of highlighting a young person who has kept others active or raised money through physical activity. The inaugural winner was nine-year-old Tobias Weller, who suffers from cerebral palsy and autism, and, inspired by Captain Tom, set out to walk two marathons in his walker along the street where he lives in Sheffield.
Previously, he could barely manage 50m a day yet completed his challenge in 70 days, raising more than £137,000 for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Paces special school.
The adults’ Unsung Hero Award was posthumously awarded to Sgt Matt Ratana, the charismatic officer in the Met Police who was killed on duty in Croydon as he prepared to search a suspect. His death came hours after he had supervised a training session at East Grinstead Rugby Club where he was head coach and where he had quadrupled the number of players in his three years at the club.
And, in another first, Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford was honoured for his campaign to raise awareness of child food poverty in the UK by being presented with the Expert Panel Special Award. Rashford, through his own harsh experiences when he admitted “sometimes we didn’t even have a loaf of bread”, worked tirelessly for the provision of free school meals during holidays and other support to low-income families, prompting changes in Government policy.
Other award winners on the night – Team of the Year, Liverpool FC; Coach of the Year, Jurgen Klopp; Young Sports Personality of the Year, Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (diving); World Sport Star of the Year, Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC).
The main awards were presented by Kevin Sinfield, the rugby league legend, who ran seven marathons in seven days to raise funds – more than £1million – and awareness of Motor Neurone Disease for his close friend, the former Leeds Rhinos star who has been struck down with the disease.