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2 superwomen up for SPOTY

Two females made it among the ten contenders shortlisted for the 60th Sports Personality of the Year award. Adele Norris talks to Hannah Cockroft and Christine Ohuruogu

The last woman to win was Zara Phillips but that was in 2006. Several years later and there’s a chance of another female taking the title after Christine Ohuruogu and Hannah Cockroft were shortlisted for the award.

The track and field athlete, Ohuruogu, and wheelchair sprinter, Cockcroft, shined at last year’s home Olympic and Paralympic Games and with world records and an array of gold medals under their belts it is no surprise that both have been nominated for the commendable award this year.

BBC Sports Personality of The Year 2012
Bradley Wiggins, Sports Personality of The Year 2012

They were selected by an expert panel, which included chief executive of UK Sport, Liz Nicholl and former Sports Personality nominees Baroness Grey-Thompson, Dame Kelly Holmes and Marcus Trescothick and was chaired by the BBC director of sport Barbara Slater.

The clear presence of women on the selection panel comes after the body was revised because of complaints made in 2011 when no women made it to the 10-person shortlist.

Then a panel of 27 sports editors from national and regional newspapers and magazines decided the contenders.

Track and field Athlete Christine Ohuruogu

Christine Ohurugo was a contender for the 2007 Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) title along with Paula Radcliffe, and in 2008 with Nicole Cooke and Rebecca Adlington who came third.

The 29-year-old has one of the biggest global medal hauls in history. Last week, Ohuruogu won the Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Award.


Following her nomination for SPOTY Christine said: ‘Obviously it makes me very proud that I have been recognized for doing something that I worked hard to achieve.’

‘When you look back over the years at the people who have won this award, it would be an incredible honour for me to join that company but I think the standard is very high this year.’

Specialising in the 400m she is the current World Champion following the World Championships in Athletics in Moscow in August this year.

Christine Ohurugo
Christine Ohurugo at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, where she won the 400m.

She stormed across the line with a time of 49.41 breaking the 400m record set by Kathy in 1982. The win makes her the first British woman to claim the title twice, having also won in 2007.

She told British Athletics: ‘When I finished I didn’t know if I’d won it, I didn’t want to get over-excited until my name came up. I heard everyone screaming and I looked up and I’m just so happy.’

‘This is like a dream, it’s too much. I can’t even put it into words, I just thank God for everything – I can’t believe it.’

Born in Newham, East London Christine was raised less than one mile from the London 2012 Olympic stadium where she hoped to defend her Olympic title.

She became the first British female 400m champion at Beijing 2008, for which she was appointed MBE in the New Year Honours, but in a close race she finished with a silver medal at London, just 0.15 seconds off the gold.

We asked Christine what was winning mantra. She said: ‘Maybe it’s because of the way I run my races but I’m always telling myself ‘you have to keep going right to the end.’

But her participation in athletics began far earlier. In 2003 she won bronze in the 400m at the European Junior Championships and progressed to Amature Athletic Association Champion in 2004.

This led her to a semi-final place in the 400m at the Athens Summer Olympics and on the 400m team GB relay team, for which they finished 4th.

In 2005 on top of her dedication to training and competition she graduated from University College London with a degree in Linguistics.

But Christine’s success hasn’t been without tough times. Her career was building well until when in August 2006 she was provisionally suspended by UK Athletics for missing three out-of-competition drugs tests in 18 months.

Christine Ohurugo at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, where she won the 400m.

It resulted in a one-year ban by UK Athletics and an automatic lifelong ban by the British Olympic Association (BOA).

She appealed both and won her battle with the BOA to be reinstated but the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) rejected calls to reduce her one year ban and it wasn’t until August 2007 that we saw Ohuruogu return to competition.

Returning with fight in her run Ohuruogu turned to the Bejing Olympics and reminded us what she was made off winning gold.

Unfortunately the star was to face further limitations when in 2010 she was ruled out of the European Championships in Barcelona with a thigh injury. As a result she was forced to pull out of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi that September.

The bad news continued into 2011 when she was disqualified in the heats at the World Championships in Daegu for a false start.

Today Christine can look back triumphant with a Commonwealth, Olympic and World Champion ticked off her list of achievements.

We also asked her for a tip for anyone chasing their dreams: ‘Don’t lose sight of your dream.  Try to remember why you set that dream in the first place and that will help motivate you when it gets tough.’

Besides her athletic career Christine is also a children’s author.

In the lead-up to the London Olympics, she published a two-part series called Camp Gold about sport enthusiast Maxine, who goes to an elite sports summer camp where she discovers her hidden talent – running. The books follow her journey training for National and then International competitions.

She is also nominated for the BT Action Woman Awards supported by Boris Johnson.

Colin Jackson, Two-time world hurdles champion and BBC Sport athletics pundit, told BBC Sport: ‘Christine is one of Britain’s best athletes ever as far as I’m concerned. Christine has come back time and time again, taken on the best in world and beaten them at their own game. She’s an outstanding athlete and to top it all off with the national record is just something else.’

Christine said: ‘At the start of my season I set out to break the British record and hoped that would also bring me the world title.  For me to be nominated for this award is a nice way to end a great year.’

Wheelchair sprinter Hannah Cockroft

This year Cockroft not only won gold in both the 100m and 200m at the IPC Athletics World Championships but doubled that total at the Swiss National Championships taking gold in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. She specialises in sprint distances in the T34 classification.

Cockroft said: ‘It’s a huge honour and a massive suprise to be up there alongside some of the biggest names in sport as well as some of my own idols and inspirations.’

‘To even be in the running is amazing, especially being a female paralympian, outside of a Paralympic year – it’s practically unheard of. I’m hugely proud to be living proof that London really did change the way Paralympic athletes are seen.’

Hannah Cockroft at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, where she did the 100m.
Hannah Cockroft at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, where she did the 100m.

The 21 year old was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire. At birth she suffered two cardiac arrests which left her with brain damage in two different parts of her brain, deformed legs and feet and weak hips.

On Hannah’s website she puts her fighting spirit in sport down to the years of dedication from her parents to get her the physiotherapy and equipment to defy doctor’s predictions of a life reliant on a wheelchair.

She writes: ‘At three years old, I took my first steps. Although this opened up new problems with mobility, balance and the use of my fine motor skills, it was a huge step to make.’

‘As long as my family are behind me, I’ve always been determined to go on to great things.’

In her early childhood Hannah took to dancing, spending 13 years taking creative dance classes. She was awarded the ‘Outstanding achievement in dance award’ in 2007.

From here Hannah moved to senior school and turned her attention to wheelchair basketball. She represented her Yorkshire in this sport and the seated discus. Taking silver in the seated discus at the UK School Games Hannah was invited to a UK Athletics Talent ID day and her career began.

Cockroft’s winning mantra is, ‘Those afraid of pain will never know glory.’

Making her mark in 2010, She broke four world records at the British Wheelchair Athletics Association International event.

This was only a taste of things to come, the same year she broke seven world records in just eight days. Today Cockcroft has claimed a total of 21 world records over the T34 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.

The following year, at her debut for the GB senior team, the nickname ‘Hurricane Hannah’ was born when she won two gold medals in the 100m and 200m T34 at the IPC World Athletics Championships in New Zealand.

There was a lot riding on her reputation at the home London 2012 Paralympic Games and nothing fell short when, in the same events as her World Championships the previous year, Hannah took double gold and broke four Paralympic records.

She was also the first athlete to break a world record in the Olympic Stadium when registering a 100m time of 18.56sec.

Since then Cockroft has been named on the Queens New Years Honours list 2013 and the Federation of Disability Sports Sportswoman of the year 2012.

Hannah Cockroft at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, where she did the 100m.
Hannah Cockroft at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in July, where she did the 100m.

At the IPC World Athletics Championships in Lyon this year Cockroft won the 200m, and the 100m in a new championship record of 17.88 seconds.

She told British Athletics after the second win: ‘The pressure was on today, everyone kind of expected me to win so I didn’t want to let people down.’

‘You’ve got to say you’re confident in the build-up, but I’ve been feeling the pressure since I got off the plane here.’

Tanni Grey-Thompson, BBC Sport, commentating at the IPC Athletics said: ‘That was a dominant piece of sprinting from Hannah Cockroft. Starting from lane three she had some of the faster starters outside her but she picked them off, held the bend well and was an easy winner.’
We asked Hannah for her top tip in chasing after your dreams: ‘Whatever your dream is, when you achieve it, there is no better feeling in the world.’
‘From someone who has lived their dream, crossing the finish line in London and sitting on the number 1 spot of the podium leading 80,000 people in their national anthem is the most incredible thing. Everyone wants to know what it feels like, but it’s indescribable, you have to achieve your own dreams to understand the feeling of euphoria it gives you.’
On her website Hannah said she is superstitious and paints her nails to match her kit or chair before every race.

She also has lucky underwear and socks – I wonder if she will be wearing them on the night of Sports Personality of the Year?

Hannah said it’s certainly going to be a challenge to win against such a strong list: ‘It’d be incredible if I did, not just for me but the whole Paralympic movement. Just the recognition of my hard work and achievements this year is enough but to win would be amazing, a dream come true.’

An expected 12,000 strong crowd will attend the event at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

But it is up to the public to vote for their favourite sports person of the year on Sunday, 15 December.

Voting will be by phone and online during the live programme. How to vote

Also on offer are awards for In addition to the main prize, there will also be seven other awards: Team of the Year, Coach of the Year, Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, Young Sports Personality of the Year, Sports Personality of the Year Diamond Award, the Helen Rollason Award and the Sports Unsung Hero.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

The full BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist is:

Ben Ainslie (sailing)
Ian Bell (cricket)
Hannah Cockroft (athletics)
Mo Farah (athletics)
Chris Froome (cycling)
Leigh Halfpenny (rugby)
Christine Ohuruogu (athletics)
Andy Murray (tennis)
A. P. McCoy (horse racing)
Justin Rose (golf)

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