The BBC has revealed the names of the ten shortlisted candidates who will battle it out for the honour of receiving the 2009 Sports Personality of the Year accolade later this month – and recently-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button is amongst them.
The winner will be announced during the official presentation ceremony in Sheffield on 13 December following a public vote, and Button will go up against cycling star Mark Cavendish, world champion diver Tom Daley, Manchester United football hero Ryan Giggs, heptathlete Jessica Ennis, triple-jumper Phillips Idowu, heavyweight boxer David Haye, England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, tennis ace Andy Murray and world gymnastics champion Beth Tweddle – with the finalists having been chosen by a panel of 26 sports editors from national and regional newspapers and magazines.
Whilst Britain's tenth F1 World Champion is up against some stiff opposition, he has already been installed as bookies' favourite – but then title-winning predecessor and 2010 McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was similarly hotly-tipped this time twelve months ago, only to find himself pipped to the trophy by triple Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy.
Button prevailed at the end of a rollercoaster year that turned from a nightmare beginning into a fairytale ending in a spectacular phoenix-from-the-flames like story. Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal at the end of 2008 looked to have spelt the end of the road for the Brackley-based outfit, but Ross Brawn believed otherwise, and when Melbourne came around in March the Mercedes-powered BGP 001 was the fastest thing in the field – and Button made sublime use of it.
Seven months later – despite a mid-season wobble as the pressure of being the hunted for the first time in his top flight career seemed to unsettle him – the 29-year-old achieved his childhood dream of becoming F1 World Champion, defying odds of 100-1 back in January. The chances of him similarly claiming the honours in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year contest look somewhat better.
“I think you'll agree it's an outstanding list,” Carl Doran, editor of Sports Personality of the Year, told the BBC, “and it underlines what an exceptional year it has been for British sport. Overall there are nine sports represented, [and] you only have to look at those who just missed out like Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Tony McCoy and Andrew Flintoff to see how strong the line-up is. British sport is in tremendous shape as we get closer to the 2012 Olympics.
“We've our best-ever line-up and some amazing surprises for our biggest-ever show in front of 11,000 people at the Sheffield Arena. We have some very special awards that are likely to bring the house down, in particular our Lifetime Achievement Award which will honour a true world superstar. There will also be live performances, surprise appearances and the greatest collection of sporting talent you're likely to see in one place – not forgetting one of the closest races for the main award for years.”
“The reaction of viewers and those members of the public who have been able to attend the event in the last three years has been fantastic,” added Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, “and we hope this year in Sheffield will continue that trend. It's been another great year of sport, and the event promises to be another show to remember. It's a tremendous cast list and a great experience for the audience in the venue, and we hope this year will be a classic.”