On the face of it, Jo Pavey should not really be in with a chance of winning next month’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year (writes Chris Broadbent).
After all, her wares from 2014, a European gold and Commonwealth bronze go up against the World Championships, Olympic gold, Paralympic gold and the UEFA Champions League won by her fellow nominees. Yet, sport goes beyond the raw facts and figures. Pavey fully deserves her place among the 10 shortlisted names because of the circumstances in which she succeeded this year. All her rivals began 2014 at the top of their game and duly delivered on their goals.
The Devon runner began the year aged 40, unfunded, having not raced seriously for 14 months, breastfeeding her three month old daughter and without a major title to her name. She was the least likely of all the ten contenders to find herself named as one the UK’s most successful sportspeople for 2014.
In that sense, she has achieved more than any of the other nine on the shortlist. And that’s why she should be named the outright winner. All 10 have achieved at the top level. But none overcame as many challenges as Pavey. Not by a long way.
You won’t be surprised to read this on a running website - but she also did it in the hardest sport. There, I said it. Ever so slightly biased, but aren’t we all?
Athletics is a truly global and the fight for medals on the international stage is ridiculously competitive. It is also very much an individual sport with no relying on team-mates or technology to succeed. When Pavey won Commonwealth bronze in Glasgow in August, splitting the world-leading Kenyans, it was remarkable. When she beat the best the continent had to offer by winning European 10,000m gold in Zurich ten days later, it was extraordinary.
Remember, she had only given birth 11 months earlier and had only just finished breastfeeding four months prior. She shared her crowning moment as she embraced husband Gavin, 4-year-old son Jacob and baby Emily in the Letzigrund Stadium. That alone was the most inspiring sporting moment of 2014.
Athletics really means something to the British public. Distance running in particular. They get it. The commitment, the competitive nature of the sport and the sheer guts needed to win resonate with us That’s why athletics has 17 winners in the annual competition, way more than any other sport. Nine of those were distance runners.
The latest betting shows Pavey is – at best - a 33-1 shot at picking up the BBC Personality Award. But this is a lady well used to beating the odds. Can she do so again in the Glasgow for the second tim this year in 2014?