Yesterday marked the end of an era for not only England rugby, but world rugby, with the announced international retirement of Jonny Wilkinson.
Capped 91 times for England, Wilkinson has scored a record-breaking 1,179 points for England, played in 4 World Cup campaigns and reached two finals.
Wilkinson was the second-youngest English player at 18 years and 314 days when he began his international career 13 years ago, and there was no doubt from that first entrance that he was going to be a great player. His career defining moment coming in the 2003 World Cup final against Australia when he kicked the drop-goal 17 seconds from the end of extra time, taking the score to 20-17 and securing England victory.
Blighted by injury, the extraordinarily determined England fly-half has fought back against each setback and it is this dedication to the game which has been inspirational – not only to his teammates but to players around the world. Wilkinson has always been a great ambassador for the game with his diligence and determination and much can be learned from his example.
Though I managed to complete my first 10K this year and my netball team was promoted (we’ve since won only two matches), I wasn’t too surprised to not be shortlisted for the BBC Sport Personality of the Year Award 2011. Sidestepping the political furor that seems to have erupted regarding the omission of any shortlisted women, I thought I would focus instead on the achievements of those who have been selected. Reading the list of nominees, what’s stood out for me as a key trait within all those that have been selected is stamina.
Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss have stood their ground at the crease. Golfers Darren Clarke, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy have all kept their nerve to succeed. Murray continues with his struggle to win a Grand Slam title, though came heartbreakingly close again … maybe next year, Andy.
But my two favourite contenders are without a doubt Mo Farah and Mark Cavendish. Mo’s had a great year winning gold in the 5,000m at the World Athletics Championships and coming a stealthy second in the 10,000. (Mo finished the BUPA London 10k before I’d even started…) He’s without a doubt Britain’s greatest ever long distance runner. Cav, on the other hand, is the world’s fastest man on two wheels. Going the distance, he’s won the Road World Championships 2011 and the green jersey in the Tour de France.
Both these athletes more than deserve to win this award and I’ll be rooting for them on the 22nd December. Who will you be voting for?