|Claire Lomas raised over £200,000 for Spinal Research|
The BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards paid tribute to the most successful sportsmen and sportswomen of 2012. With the spotlight on British glory at the Olympics and Paralympics, competition for the honours had never been fiercer.
However, as we celebrated the achievements of Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins, we shouldn’t forget those who made valuable contributions to sport but were not eligible for the award.
Here I look at four personalities who inspired the public in 2012 but for very different reasons.
Claire Lomas: The Bionic Woman
Completing the London marathon in 16 days isn’t usually something to be proud of, but it is if you are Claire Lomas. In May, Lomas — who was left paralysed from the chest down after a horse riding accident — became the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit. It was a personal triumph but also a feat that raised over £200,000 for Spinal Research.
"When Claire hit the headlines, we saw a rise in donations, for which we are forever grateful," Jonathan Miall, Chief Executive of Spinal Research, told me.
"Thanks to Claire’s efforts we have been able to recruit additional supporters to all areas of our charity. We have also heard from paralysed people saying how empowered they’ve felt since seeing Claire’s determination to overcome adversity."
While the marathon organisers refused to give Lomas a medal, several members of the public sent her their own.
"Claire absolutely deserves a mention at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. What most people don’t realise is how hard it is to walk in the suit," says Miall.
Dr. Andrew Deaner: The Fan Who Took Action
Most of us are familiar with Fabrice Muamba’s remarkable story; fewer know of Andrew Deaner’s. On 17 March 2012, Dr. Deaner was a fan cheering on Tottenham with his brothers. A few minutes later, he was battling to save a young Bolton footballer who had suffered a cardiac arrest.
While the response from Tottenham and Bolton’s medical team was exceptional, consultant cardiologist Dr. Deaner decided to leave his seat and fight through the crowds to help. After being told he was not allowed through, he finally convinced a steward to let him pass.
Dr. Deaner played a crucial part in saving Muamba’s life and is believed to be behind the decision to take the footballer to his hospital — the London Heart Hospital — which specialises in cardiac care.
After Muamba regained consciousness, Dr. Deaner whispered, ‘I understand you’re a very good footballer,’ into the ear of a stranger who would soon become his friend. ‘I try,’ Muamba replied.
Frankel: Uniting a Nation
Frankel would be within his rights to be upset by his exclusion from the BBC Sport Personality of the Year shortlist.
"Frankel’s performances are right up there with the best sporting performances we have witnessed in 2012. Frankel has done so much for the racing community and British sport," Frankel’s jockey Tom Queally told me.
With 14 wins out of 14 races, Frankel was heralded one of the best racehorses of all time before retiring in October. Even those who didn’t follow racing found themselves caught up in his story. It was his ability to unite the British public which made Frankel extraordinary.
Queally was well aware of the horse’s talents and believed Frankel knew he was special.
"Everybody loves a superstar in any walk of life. Everything about Frankel makes me think he is exceptional: his class, his raw ability, his will to win, he is a horse of a lifetime," says Queally.
Clare Balding: The Spirit of the Games
One of the breakthrough sports personalities of 2012 was not found on the athletics track but beside it. During a golden summer, sport lovers sat glued to their televisions listening to a woman who produced a gold standard in presenting.
Clare Balding’s Olympic coverage captured the spirit and passion of the Games and turned her into a national treasure. In December, her presenting skills were acknowledged with an honour at the Women in Film and Television awards.
When the Olympics were over, Balding continued to inspire, becoming a much needed advocate for women’s sport. In October, she appeared alongside Katherine Granger and Tanni Grey-Thompson before an All-Party parliamentary group. At the meeting, she said a three-pronged approach — through ‘imagery, information and investment‘ — was needed to catapult women’s sport into the spotlight.
With women’s sport receiving only 0.5 percent of commercial sponsorship and an inactivity crisis among females, Balding is working hard to ensure Britain’s female Olympic heroes of today are not forgotten tomorrow.
This article featured in the Positive Newspaper.