Leaving the footballers to one side for a second, could we be in for a 2017 type close finish this year?
Ronnie O’Sullivan heads the market at 3/1 after equaling Stephen Hendry’s seven world championships in May. This is a significant record for a popular character but enthusiasm for a SPOTY win is tempered by him not making the podium in 2020 after receiving a nomination for the first time. He was up against SPOTY heavyweight Lewis Hamilton and two campaign contenders in Jordan Henderson and Hollie Doyle in that year though. He also has opportunities for further tournament wins this year, of which the UK Championship in November is the most significant. Overall, the impression is that he doesn’t set the highest bar.
Jake Wightman (8/1) was not even listed in SPOTY books before his shock win at the 1500m at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon where he beat the Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, He is an interesting contender this year, assisted by the popular side-story of his dad calling him home as the stadium announcer:
It can be difficult for world athletics champions to win SPOTY – for example, Dina Asher-Smith came third and Katarina Johnson-Thompson didn’t make the podium in 2019 and Jessica Ennis-Hill was third in 2015 . This year is unusual though in that there are three major championships, with Wightman having the chance to further his medal haul at the Commonwealth Games (in Birmingham, where he will represent Scotland) and the European Championships.
A mention should also be given to rising star Keely Hogkinson (33/1) who landed a valiant silver in the 800m, narrowly beaten by American Athing Mu. She will find things much easier for the remainder of the summer.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (20/1) won the US Open but golfers who win one of the US majors (as opposed to the Open) have struggled to poll highly; as have English cricketers who have had excellent seasons, which makes it tricky for Joe Root (33/1) and Jonny Bairstow (25/1). A T20 World Cup win in November would be of assistance to the latter.
Tyson Fury (12/1) would likely again rule himself out of actively participating in any show and has polled poorly recently. While he has said he has retired, it seems he could easily schedule a new fight at any time – a big fight win later in the year would make things a bit more interesting. Given recent history, there must be some doubt he would make any shortlist as things stand.
There is one current event that could become a sporting highlight this year in England and that is if the Lionesses win the Euros at home They have reached the semi finals and are 13/8 to win the tournament. Nine million watched the quarter-final victory over Spain.
As ever with team sports, if England were to win, it is difficult to predict who the stand out performer would be, and much may depend on the final itself. Beth Mead (8/1) leads the way at the moment as the clear top scorer in the tournament so far with 5. If she did win the golden boot, alongside an England triumph, she could become a short-priced SPOTY favourite.
Ellen White (33/1) is one goal behind Wayne Rooney’s England record of 53. She has two so far in this tournament. The difficulty for her is that she has been somewhat outshone by substitute Alessia Russo (not seen a price listed) and there must be doubt about her starting place.
Earlier in the year I’d been keen on an each way bet at around 50/1 on Adam Peaty given the three big swimming championships this year. He then broke his foot in training ruling him out of the worlds. He has now fought back to fitness, declaring himself ready for the Commonwealth Games, and is in the squad for the European Aquatics Championships in Rome that follow. There is some doubt as to whether he has had enough time to be at his very best but he has a chance of four golds (50m, 100m breaststroke, 100m medley and mixed) in Birmingham which he is calling his home Games (not far from Uttoxeter where he grew up).
In Rome Peaty is scheduled to clash with Nicolo Martinenghi, who took his 100m world title in his absence, so has the chance of some redemption, as well as further golds in his other events.
While these two championships are not the most illustrious in the sport, Peaty’s profile has increased in the last year, and given the potential that the footballers may not triumph, he could poll fairly well against some of his competitors if he makes the shortlist. At 100/1 (80/1 general) he is worth a small each way bet, mainly in the hope of sneaking a place.
There is always scope for further contenders to emerge unexpectedly at a late stage – notable examples from other years include Jordan Henderson, Hollie Doyle, Jonathan Rea, Jonnie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and of course Emma Raducanu. The World Cup could be a game-changer but it does look optimistic to think England (or Wales) could win in Qatar.
In terms of scheduling, the World Cup final is on Sunday 18 December, the same day that SPOTY would typically be. In order to avoid a clash, there is talk that SPOTY will be pushed back slightly to be held mid-week once the tournament was over.
* Adam Peaty 0.5 pts each way 100/1 (Coral / Ladbrokes, 80/1 Bet 365, Paddy Power)