Another year, another clutch of gold medals and another BBC Sports Personality of the Year snub for Mo Farah writes Chris Broadbent. Why does Britain’s greatest ever athlete consistently miss out at the UK’s biggest sports awards?
Since 2010, Farah has been the planet’s dominant distance runner with FOUR Olympic gold medals, five World Championship golds and five European golds. It is an unprecedented haul for a British athlete. His list of achievements deserves comparison with those of any truly great sportsman or woman from these islands.
George Best, Lennox Lewis, Steve Redgrave, Bradley Wiggins, pick any one you like, Farah stands tall alongside any of them.
Yet in this golden period, he has finished in the top three at SPOTY just once, when he was third in 2011. This year he was fourth, despite another record-setting year when he completed the Olympic double double by winning 10,000m and 5000m gold in Rio, repeating his success from London 2012.
Let’s also not forget that he is the best of the best in a sport that is one of the most competitive in the world. Athletics is a sport of sports, but the numbers competing in pole vault or discus, for example, bear no comparison whatever with those taking part in 5k or 10k running.
It’s very difficult to clearly define the number of people taking part in different sports globally. But a recent study estimated that in the USA there are over 64m who regularly run or jog. Also in the US, the number of tennis players comes in at just shy of 18m, so less than a third.
Meanwhile in England, 2.4m participate in athletics on a weekly basis – which, it’s safe to assume the vast majority are distance runners, as opposed to pole vaulters – and 0.4m play tennis on a weekly basis. I'll take a wild punt that there are a vast amount more runners than tennis players in Africa too and the pattern is repeated across most nations.
Let’s just say it as it is. Distance running is a massively competitive, truly global sport - much more so than tennis, triathlon or equestrian. Of the hundreds of millions of people who take part in running across the planet, Mo Farah is the best. So, why he is consistently overlooked at SPOTY?
Is it because of the unfounded rumours swirling around his coach Alberto Salazar linking him to unethical use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) with other athletes? Maybe mud sticks? But that was in 2015 and any investigations have since been dropped.
And it still doesn’t explain Mo's conspicuous absence from the BBC's top three in 2012, 2013 and 2014 - all summers of golden doubles.
Is it because he resides outside the UK in the USA or at overseas training camps? Well, it didn’t prevent Monaco residents Lewis Hamilton or fellow distance runner Paula Radcliffe, winners in 2014 and 2002 respectively.
Or is it something - I fear - a little darker? Does Brexiting Britain have less love than it might once have for a Somali immigrant? I sincerely, seriously hope not.
But I do wonder if this incredible athlete will ever be truly appreciated as he so deserves to be in his homeland. Britain should cherish the Mo-bot, the mega-watt smile and Mo Farah’s monumental talent while it still can.