This year, not one but two equestrian athletes have made it to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist: Olympic individual-gold medallist Nick Skelton and eight-time Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Christiansen. Both
With 2016 having seen so many triumphs for British sport, however, the two riders face stiff competition for the prestigious accolade. The 16-strong shortlist also includes tennis world-number-one Andy Murray, long-distance runner and multiple Olympic-gold-medallist Mo Farah and Olympic gold-medal-winning triathlete Alistair Brownlee, who, last September, helped his exhausted brother, Jonny, across the finish line at the Triathlon World Series in Mexico.
Andy Murray, who has already claimed the title twice (in 2013 and 2015), is the odds-on favourite to win this year, too, followed by Brownlee and Farah.
By contrast, history is somewhat stacked against Skelton and Christiansen as only four equestrian athletes have won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in its 62-year history: showjumping champion David Broome (in 1960), eventing’s Princess Anne (in 1971) and Zara Phillips (in 2006), and racing’s A.P. McCoy (in 2010).
However, as Christiansen pointed out in a Facebook post, riders across the country can help her and Skelton improve their chances of getting to the top. That’s because although the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year is picked by a panel of experts, public vote on the night of the award ceremony determines the winner.
“I know that many of the British public won’t know who I am because I compete in a minority sport,” Christiansen wrote in a humorous post where she asked for help not to come last.
“I want to be voted for by the people because I stand for more than just an athlete. So please vote for me if you have ever overcome a challenge, believe in the benefits of sport, studied maths, have a disability but never let that stop you, work in an office, love riding and horses, went to university, always strive for better, go to festivals and gigs, are a computer geek and proud of it, fight for things you believe in or just like to support the underdog!”
So make sure you get online (or on the phone) on 18 December. Whether you cast your vote for Skelton or Christiansen, you’ll have voted for equestrian sports.
Images: Nick Skelton by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, and Sophie Christiansen, by Liz Gregg, both courtesy of the FEI