Rebecca Adlington was named the Sportswoman of the Year by the Britain’s sports journalists at the SJA British Sports Awards in recognition of her victory in the 800 metres freestyle at swimming’s world championships in Shanghai.
Adlington was presented with the trophy by Anita Lonsbrough, Britain’s previous female Olympic swimming gold medallist and who had last won the sports journalists’ Sportswoman of the Year prize herself in 1962. World champion triathlete Helen Jenkins and jockey Hayley Turner were runners-up to in the poll of SJA members.
Mark Cavendish, world champion road race cyclist and Britain’s most successful Tour de France rider, was voted Sportsman of the Year in the 63rd annual poll of the Sports Journalists’ Association’s 800-plus members. Athlete Mo Farah, the 5,000 metres world champion, and U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy were runners-up.
England’s Ashes-retaining men’s cricket team, who reached No.1 in the world during 2011, were runaway winners in the Team of the Year category, where Europe’s Solheim Cup-winning women golfers and world champion rowers Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins were runners-up.
A full house at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s Covent Garden for the SJA British Sports Awards saw SJA President Sir Michael Parkinson present the Sportsman of the Year trophy to Cavendish and the Team of the Year award to batsman Jonathan Trott.
The SJA poll has been in existence since 1949, but the Association’s committee also make additional awards in recognition of British sporting excellence.
This year’s recipients included two sportswomen whose achievements were considered exceptional. The Pat Besford Award for an Outstanding Performance went to Chrissie Wellington, who became Ironman Triathlon world champion for a fourth time, and who earlier in the year broke her own world record.
Sarah Stevenson, who went to South Korea and won a world championship title in taekwondo – that country’s national sport – was presented with the SJA Committee Award.
The Peter Wilson Trophy for the year’s Best International Newcomer was won by golfer Tom Lewis, whose first round 65 in the Open Championship at Royal St George’s was a record score for an amateur.
The Bill McGowran Trophy, the world’s oldest annual award to recognise the achievement of an athlete with a disability, went to wheelchair tennis world No.1 Peter Norfolk.
Athletics coach Malcolm Arnold, who has been training Olympic and world champion hurdlers for 40 years, received the J.L.Manning Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Sport from Dai Greene, the Welshman he has guided to European, Commonwealth and world titles at 400 metres hurdles.
Another coach, England cricket team director Andy Flower, was the recipient of Sir Michael Parkinson’s President’s Award. Alison Nicholas, the captain of Europe’s Solheim Cup golf team, was awarded the Spirit of Sport Trophy.
The Sports Journalists’ Association of Great Britain is the world’s largest national body of professional sports journalists, including writers, editors, photographers and broadcasters among its members.
Founded in 1948, following the last London Olympics, the SJA has been running its annual British Sports Awards since 1949, with the Sportswoman of the Year trophy presented since 1959. The Bill McGowran Trophy recognising athletes with a disability has been presented since 1963.
All members of the SJA are invited to vote for their leading three choices in the Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year.
The top six in the 2011 SJA British Sports Awards voting were:
1, Mark Cavendish (cycling); 2, Mo Farah (athletics); 3, Rory McIlroy (golf); 4, Alastair Cook (cricket); 5, Darren Clarke (golf); 6, Dai Greene (athletics)
1, Rebecca Adlington (swimming); 2, Helen Jenkins (triathlon); 3, Hayley Turner (horse racing); 4, Jessica Ennis (athletics); 5, Keri-Anne Payne (swimming); 6, Beth Tweddle (gymnastics)
1, England men’s cricket; 2, Europe Solheim Cup golf; 3, Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins (rowing); 4, GB&I Walker Cup golf; 5, Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield (diving); 6, Wales men’s rugby union