Andy Murray capped a glorious year, in which he lifted the Wimbledon title, stormed to Olympic gold and became the first British tennis player to reach No 1 in the world, by winning Sports Personality of the Year for a record third time.
Murray, a massive 1-7 on favourite with bookmakers beforehand, beat the gold medal-winning triathlete Alistair Brownlee into second place, with 58-year-old showjumper Nick Skelton, who became the oldest British gold medallist since 1908 in Rio, in third.
Speaking from his training camp in Miami after being presented with his award by former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Murray paid special tribute to his wife, Kim, and daughter, Sophia Olivia, but added: “I’ve got a bone to pick with my wife, who told me an hour ago she had voted for Nick Skelton! It’s not smart of her with Christmas coming up. But I appreciate everyone’s support. It’s been an amazing year for British sport and I’m proud to have played a part in it.”
Skelton said he was grateful for the support of Murray’s wife but added: “She didn’t vote enough!”
Murray, who won nine titles and reached the final of 13 of the 17 tournaments he entered in 2016, described it “as the best year of my career and a great year for British tennis”. He added: “Jo Konta finished in the top 10, my brother was No 1 in the doubles and Gordon Reid and Andy Lapthorne did well in the Paralympics, so I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Murray, who became a father for the first time this year, said his parenthood had been a big influence on his success. “I’ve loved it,” he said. “It was a challenge at the start but it made me realise there was more to life than just my sport. It’s obviously helped my performances on the court.”
He also revealed that top half of the trophy was broken – and he had been worried about it falling apart on TV. “They didn’t tell me how it got broken, but I was told that if I won I had to hold it close to my body so it didn’t fall over on the camera,” he said. “After the problems that Lennox and I the last time we did this [when there was botched handover in 2012, when he came third], I listened to them.”
It would have been entirely understandable if Murray had eased up after winning the Wimbledon final in July and Olympic gold a month later. Instead he raced around the world, racking up a series of titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris before, finally, beating Novak Djokovic in the ATP Tour final to take his No 1 crown. But Murray warned it would be tough to remain on top in 2017. “I’m going to give it my best shot but it’s going to be hard,” he added.
Sports Personality was once regarded as mildly diverting pre-Christmas froth but this year it was bigger than ever, with a record 16-strong shortlist and a running time of more than two hours. There were also 12,000 paying spectators at the Genting Arena – at one point the queue to get in snaked all the way back to Birmingham International train station.
Such was the strength of the shortlist, which included 13 Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists, that the triple Tour de France winner Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, whose exploits in Rio made him the most decorated British athlete in Olympic history, missed out. The heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua also failed to make the grade, as did Alastair Cook, who became the first Englishman to hit 10,000 Test runs.
Murray got 247,419 votes – more than double that of Brownlee, who won 121,665 votes, and Skelton who had 109,197. Mo Farah, who won Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m gold, was fourth with 54,476 votes.
Meanwhile, the other big winners on the night were Leicester City, who were rewarded for their stunning Premier League title victory with two awards – team of the year and coach of the year for Claudio Ranieri.
The US gymnast Simone Biles was named Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, while swimmer Michael Phelps was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award after taking his medal tally to 23 gold medals – 28 overall – with a series of victories at the Rio Olympics. Ben Smith, who ran 401 marathons in 401 days to raise money for Kidscape and Stonewall after suffering years of mental and physical bullying, won the Helen Rollason Award.
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