This primary assembly looks at the history of the BBC’s ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, and questions what it means to be shortlisted as well as to win the award

The BBC’s ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ is an event that celebrates sportsmen and women who have both achieved in their sport and also won the admiration of the public who vote for them.

Note to teachers
This year the top three are expected to be: Lewis Hamilton, Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy. The BBC awards event is on Sunday 14th December, after this assembly has gone into production, so you’ll want to add the winning name yourself. Below are 10 short biographies of shortlisted athletes. That makes it quite long, but we assume that you might like to highlight two or three for children, as well as the winner.

ResourcesYou need the name of the 2008 winner and runners up.

Video clips and commentaries on the nominees are found on the BBC website.

On Sunday night the British public voted for the Sport Personality of the Year Award. This year it was won by ___________. But there are many more great sports personalities besides ____________. Ten sportsmen and women were shortlisted for the top award, and all of them are already winners in their own sports.

Four cyclists were nominated: Nicole Cooke, Rebecca Romero, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy; along with swimmer Rebecca Adlington; sailor Ben Ainslie; sprinter Christine Ohuruogu; racing driver Lewis Hamilton; boxer Joe Calzaghe (for the second year running); and tennis player Andy Murray. [Delete the winner’s name from this list]

What do you think makes a great sportsman or woman? [Take suggestions]

Yes, those are all good answers. Jonathan Davies, a rugby player, gives this answer:

‘Inner belief, talent and, perhaps most importantly, a hard-work ethic. You can have all the skills in the world but if you’re not willing to graft, then that talent will be wasted.’

To win the title of ‘Sports Personality of the Year’, it is important that the individual also has the ability to bring a new audience to the sport, who perhaps weren’t interested before. That’s certainly what the winner has done this year.

About the Award
The Sports Personality of the Year Award began in 1954 as a way of celebrating achievement in sport, but also to raise the spirits of a country that was still struggling after the devastation of the Second World War.

The first winner was Christopher Chataway, a long distance runner. In those days nobody could afford to be an athlete or sportsperson full time so, after university, Christopher got a job working for a brewery. However, he continued with his own training, and even helped his good friend Roger Bannister become the first person to run a mile in under four minutes.

His favourite running was long distance and in 1954 he set a world record of 13 minutes and 51.6 seconds at the 5,000 metre race. It was that year that he won the first ever Sport Personality of the Year awards.

Joe Calzaghe’s story
Joe Calzaghe won last year’s Sports Personality of the Year Award, but he’s nominated again this year because of two tremendous boxing matches that he won against top Americans, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Junior. His friend, Jonathan Davies says that what makes him special is his modesty: ‘He’s just an ordinary guy with an amazing talent.’


Rebecca Adlington’s story
Rebecca Adlington is just 19 years old. She won two gold medals at the Olympics last summer and even broke the 800m world record. She’s also the first British woman to win an Olympic gold medal for swimming since 1960 – and the first British swimmer to win two gold medals since 1908!

But Rebecca has a secret: she’s afraid of the ocean! However, despite being scared of fish swimming around her, and even though she also suffers from asthma, Rebecca has since become a top athlete.

She’s a hero in her home town in Nottinghamshire. The local swimming pool where she did all her training will be renamed the Rebecca Adlington Swimming Centre when it reopens in 2009.
Rebecca’s advice to would-be swimming champions: ‘Enjoy it. If your heart is not in it you won’t swim well.’


Lewis Hamilton’s story

Lewis Hamilton became the youngest F1 racing driver champion just a few weeks ago. Lewis is mixed race: Lewis’ dad is black (his grandfather emigrated from Grenada in the Caribbean in the 1950s) and his mum is white. He’s the first black person to ever win the competition.

Sir Jackie Stewart won the F1 championship three times and is a fan of Lewis. He says:

‘He’s shown tremendous ability and great skills inside the cockpit and has a good temperament outside it, with his services to the media and handling of all the commercial relationships. He’s a good communicator and I think that’s why he’s appealed to general public.

‘I like Lewis very much – he’s a nice boy and has a lovely family. He’s very close to his brother, his mother and stepmother, while his father looks after most of his business interests.

‘It’s a close-knit family and they’re the best anchor he has got. Every now and again he will need a reality check and there’s nobody better than his own family to keep his feet on ground. You see, Formula One provides an intoxicating life. He’s flown straight into that and will have to deal with it. I think he’s done a pretty good job so far and I reckon he will continue to do so.’


Chris Hoy’s story
Chris Hoy’s achievements at the Beijing Olympics this summer were extraordinary. He won three gold medals for track cycling – the first Briton to do so at one Games since 1908. The 32-year-old from Edinburgh won his medals in the team sprint, keirin and sprint.

Sir Steven Redgrave is someone who knows what it’s like to be an Olympic Gold medal winner. He says about Chris:

‘It’s true that the younger you are, the less fear you have and the older you are, the more worries you have about different elements. Training becomes harder, but you actually become better as an all-round athlete. What’s most important is that you become mentally tougher and that could give Chris the edge.

‘What the public like about Chris is that he’s not big-headed. It has taken a long time for him to experience the nationwide fame he’s receiving now, even though that was his third Games and he had already collected a silver (2000) and gold (2004).

‘You learn to keep your feet on the ground because you know success doesn’t come overnight. The wider public have seen Chris as a person and know he’s worked at this for a long time.

We want to see to see sports heroes for more than just being supreme athletes and I think Chris is the perfect sports personality.’


Ben Ainslie’s story
Ben Ainslie won a third Olympic gold medal this summer but he has also won many medals for British sailing over the last 10 years.

His friend, Shirley Robertson says: ‘The one important aspect people should know about Ben is that he’s very modest about his achievements. That’s very endearing because it’s easy to be arrogant for someone in his position. However, he’s a different animal on the water – very competitive and very fiery. In the early days, there was a lot of shouting, swearing and banging his deck. As his career progressed, he’s managed to harness that to give him the edge over his rivals.’


Nicole Cooke’s story
Nicole Cooke became the first Welsh woman to win Olympic gold in cycling since 1912.

Her friend, Colin Jackson, says: ‘The thing about cycling, whether road or track, you have to wait every four years to achieve nationwide recognition. But she was determined to make the most of her opportunity in Beijing and that drive and blessed talent earned her success.’


Andy Murray’s story
Andy Murray is a tennis player born in Glasgow and brought up in Dunblane. In 2008 he had his best year ever, beating all three players ranked above him: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Although he doesn’t talk about it much, Andy is very lucky to have made it to the age of 21 at all. When he was just eight years old, a gunman killed several of the children at the school that Andy attended. Andy hid in a classroom. Perhaps these terrible events are part of what gives him his drive and will to win.

‘Since Wimbledon [in 2008], I’ve played the best tennis of my life, and hopefully I can keep it going. Not a whole a lot you can complain about there.’


Christine Ohuruogu’s story
Christine Ohuruogu won a gold medal in Beijing for the 400 m sprint.

She was born in East London, although her parents were originally from Nigeria. Her sister, Victoria, is also a top class sprinter. In fact, all eight of the Ohuruogu children are keen sports people, although not quite in Christine’s class.

Christine says that it it is her Christian faith which has sustained her through her life and career.
She’s a hot favourite to win another gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.


Rebecca Romero’s story
Rebecca Romero really is an extraordinary sportswoman. She won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics last summer for the cycling track event – even though she had only taken up cycling as a competitive sport two years ago.

Before she was a cyclist, Rebecca enjoyed rowing – and she was very good at it. She won silver in the women’s quadruple sculls at the Olympics in 2004. Sadly, an injury forced her to give up rowing, but then she found cycling instead.

‘During the 2005 racing season I had been carrying an injury … I decided that I had served my time with rowing and wanted to move onto other things. As I was considering my retirement from rowing and the prospect of a new, exciting and challenging future career, possibly using the Diploma in Marketing Communications that I had recently completed, another twist of fate occurred. I was approached by British Cycling and there began a whole new beginning for me!’

Rebecca is the first athlete to achieve Olympic medals in two completely different sports, although American athlete Tim Shaw won medals in swimming and water polo in recent years.


Bradley Wiggins’ story
Bradley Wiggins won two gold medals at the Beijing Games in track cycling. That brought the grand total of Olympic medals won by the Londoner to six, having also won bronze in Sydney and bronze, silver and gold in Athens.

But Bradley has no plans to retire from cycling just yet: his aim is to win a seventh Olympic medal for 2012, breaking clear of Sir Steve Redgrave who also has six, and beat the British record for number of medals won by a single athlete.

Bradley thinks it’s important that people recognise the hard work and long years of commitment that top athletes put into their different sports, and ranks the experience more highly that reality TV contests.

‘It is nice to be recognised for actually achieving something in life as opposed to spending seven weeks in a house on TV with a load of other muppets.’


Christopher Chataway, the first winner of the Sports Personality of the Year Award retired from international racing after the 1956 Olympics. But even though he’ll be 78 in January, he continues to race for the Thames Hare and Hounds club.

And that’s what it means to be a great sports personality — someone who loves their sport, brings other people to it and continues their enjoyment of it for throughout their life.

PrayerDear Father,We pray today for the boys and girls, men and women who are training hard to become top sportsmen and women. Give them faith to work hard and hope when things don’t always go well.


Age, gender and disability are no bar to enjoying sports. Our proud Paralympians brought home 42 gold medals, 31 silver and 29 bronze medals at this summer’s Beijing Olympics. Every single one of them is a true sports personality of the year, too.

Further informationPrevious winners include:John Surtees, motor cyclist, 1959Stirling Moss, racing driver, 1961Virginia Wade, tennis, 1977Steve Davis, snooker player, 1988Michael Owen, footballer, 1998Johnny Wilkinson, rugby union, 2003

Joe Calzaghe, boxer, 2007

Award facts
Princess Anne won in 1971 and her daughter Zara Phillips in 2006: both for three-day eventing. They are the only people from the same family to have won the Award.

Henry Cooper (1967, 1970), Nigel Mansell (1986, 1992) and Damon Hill (1994, 1996) are the only people to have won the Award twice.

The oldest winner was golfer Dai Rees, aged 44 in 1957.

The youngest winner was swimmer Ian Black, aged 17 in 1958.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are the only pair to have received the Award for figure skating in 1984.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2008

About the author: Jane A. C. West

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