This Sunday will see six of the country’s finest athletes contest a public vote for the 2019 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
One notable athlete on that list is Liverpool’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson. A World Heptathlon Champion like Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis-Hill prior and in my opinion, the worthy winner for the SPOTY crown.
Surely the categorisation of the award is centred around the achievement KJT had this year.
A historical career comeback for somebody not greatly financially backed in a sport that isn’t backed greatly financially.
A comeback story is always more appealing and she showed a mentality that can rarely be matched; coming from the place she was at three years ago to holding her nerve in the biggest pressure situation.
Past winners have proved the recipient doesn’t need to be from the biggest sport or have the biggest name. Geraint Thomas’ victory last year saw many scratching their heads as to who he was and what he did.
But again, it was his determination in one of the most mentally challenging sports that saw him claim the crown.
Consequently, Johnson-Thompson cannot be denied. There is no argument against her as clearly the award ceremony isn’t based on popularity or else many prior would not have stood a chance.
That is why the winner is normally one fans don’t expect. In recent memory, fans have been sure Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury should have won separate awards, but neither have placed as of yet.
Therefore, people must vote for the most inspirational win and that is rightfully what it should be.
Which athlete has inspired the most people, especially the youth, to participate in sport or find any sort of motivation they can to boost daily life.
The Liverpool Harrier claiming victory in October defines that to a tee. Nobody can look at her accomplishment and deny it.
In a sport that is seen as an every two-year sport, her victory inspired exactly as sporting initiatives want.
To push participation in sport, especially considering no sport is more accessible than athletics and running in general, being that those from any walk of life can try it. Whether that be at a club or in the streets.
It is similarly transparent in that progress can easily be tracked unlike any other sport. A time, height or length will always increase or decrease without subjectivity.
Comparison to Other Nominees:
Albeit I have great respect for every nominee and their achievements this year, there are flaws in them.
If we are talking about greatness, Lewis Hamilton achieved that. His sixth F1 Championship with a record points tally of 413.
But, I take it back to my previous argument. How inspirational is Lewis Hamilton’s achievements? Can the young people watching be inspired to take up racing?
For me, that is an obvious no.
F1 is part of a system that is still aristocratic. The rich survive and excel. The majority watching cannot afford the opportunities to try the sport regularly, never mind compete.
99% of children won’t ever try it, but 99% of children can run.
Similarly, Raheem Sterling inspires many as he came from his own humble beginnings, but he is somebody who was captured in a heavily-financed situation from an early age, with everything needed to succeed.
KJT is someone who grew up in Woolton and had no idea the sport would take her to the pinnacle of athletics when she started.
She is someone who was caught in the shadow of Jessica Ennis-Hill for years and was the forgotten soul of British athletics after a nightmare performance at Beijing’s 2015 World Championships where she finished 28th after fouling out in the long jump.
Admittedly, she said there were times where she nearly quit due to injuries and failure but she resisted and reiterated her belief in the seven-stage event.
To become not just a master at one, but consequently a master of seven.
When describing the best sport’s personality, what better to look at than her comeback in the sport. A true sign of a mindset that should motivate.
A battler through the doubt and drama. Deciphering through injuries and self-doubt to put herself amongst British sporting icons.
The mindset necessary to succeed at the highest level in running is incomparable to most.
Author Michael D’Aulerio once said: “It’s not in how many races you finish, it’s in how uncomfortable you’re willing to get. The secret to progress is in our struggles.”
To come back from years of disappointment to break Ennis-Hill’s British record in a gold medal victory is a story worthy of the highest acknowledgement.
Despite developing under the tutelage of a Team GB great, she hasn’t received similar mainstream praise.
The retired heptathlete finished 3rd on three occasions and 2nd once in the BBC SPOTY award ceremony.
Maybe Jessica Ennis-Hill deserved the top spot in her years competing, but Johnson-Thompson deserves it now. Especially for overcoming the Ennis-Hill stigma she had attached.
A real surge is happening in athletics currently. Team GB have finally a crop of athletes who could end the British athletics stereotype.
As her and Dina Asher-Smith showed British athletics is surging, they should be credited for that. Two working-class athletes who knew very little about potential success when they started. Just a passion for sports and not for glory.
KJT and Asher-Smith’s World Championship success has set up an exciting Tokyo 2020 with a sprinting medal from Zharnel Hughes a strong possibility and hope to push funding that the sport so desperately needs and deserves.
Albeit, many from the UK have reached the highest podium, but KJT’s story is different.
She is the only Northern nominee and in a time where cities like Liverpool are struggling to attract young people to sports, she is the perfect example of what sport can provide.
When MerseySportLive spoke to Liverpool Harriers Club President Mike Dooling MBE back in October, he was full of praise and pride for her accomplishments.
He spotted her at an early age in an indoor competition and persuaded her mum to consistently bring her to athletics. He said the club was buzzing in the week of her gold medal.
The SPOTY award would bring Liverpool Harriers deserved recognition as well.
In conclusion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson is the ultimate representation of a world champion in the world’s most accessible sport and also, the person who should win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday night.
Picture by William Warby under Creative Commons License