Friday, 9 January 2015

Why Ronnie O'Sullivan Should Have Received The SPOTY Award (Again)

by Oliver Clark


As I sat watching the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, I could not help but feel a great sense of injustice as I looked at the nominees, ranging from Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, to Ryder Cup Winner Rory McIlroy, to star of the Winter Olympics Lizzy Yarnold. 

All ten stars are talented in their respective fields, and have all made tremendous achievements throughout their careers. I would like to congratulate Lewis Hamilton for winning this years award, as he has had an excellent year, his rivalry with Nico Rosberg truly showing how entertaining Formula 1 can be, putting his life on the line every race in order to entertain fans. However, there is a man that many believe is not only long due a nomination, but who is long due the award itself for his endless achievements in his sport. That man is Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Winning four major tournaments, the Masters, the Welsh Open, the Champion of Champions and most recently, the UK Championship, alongside being World Championship runner up (a match that attracted over 9 million viewers on BBC 2 over the two days), 'The Rocket' has arguably had what can be considered one of his best years in the sport. That being said, in his 22 year career, he has won 30 ranking and 26 non-ranking event titles. five World Championships, five UK Championships and five Masters titles. Quite impressive, one might say? However, once again, O'Sullivan has  been overlooked of even a nomination for an award that has been kept away from snooker since 1988, where 'interesting' Steve Davis won the award.

What I ask is why someone who has contributed to a sport as much as O'Sullivan has in his career does not get any recognition for his talents? Although snooker is not a sport with many household names, Ronnie has cemented a legacy that cannot be rivalled by many competitors in any sport. After the thrilling 10-9 victory over Judd Trump in early December, a match that he had led 5-1 and 9-4, many of my school colleagues came up to me having been truly entertained in a sport with so few big names. This further demonstrates the effect that O'Sullivan has on the general public, and the influence he has on the popularity of snooker. Prior to the tournament, I discovered in my Headmaster's interview that our very own Mr Priory is a big fan of the game, and in a meeting that was meant to be discussing my sixth form options, I found myself having a highly entertaining conversation about a game that I have played and love since the age of 9 (as well as discussing the major A Level / IB dilemma!).

The feat of winning his 5th UK title, 21 year after winning his first aged 17, was made all the more impressive by the fact that mere days before the event was due to begin, Ronnie revealed that he had broken his ankle while running, and was unsure of his chances of competing in the tournament. Ten days later, he lifted the trophy in front of a capacity crowd of 1,450. Many people fail to recognise the mental and physical endurance of snooker when you reach the higher levels of the game. The UK final lasted just under 5 hours in total, quite a surprisingly short amount of time considering the 19 frames that were played, but less surprising when you consider the speed at which O'Sullivan and the losing finalist Trump play at (see video below):

O'Sullivan Fastest 147: 



Judd Trump Best Shots: 



Playing for this amount of time, weeks after suffering a fully broken ankle, six days after hitting a quite simply magical 147 break against Matthew Selt, a day after battling from 4-1 down to winning his semi-final 6-5 against Stuart Bingham, competing against one of the fastest rising talents in the game, is no mean feat, considering the amount of focus needed in a sport like snooker. One might pose the question, would Rory McIlroy, this year's runner-up have competed as well as he did at the Ryder Cup and his two Major wins in these circumstances?

Golf, like snooker, although not being a physical contact sport such as football and rugby, requires a great deal of mental strength that cannot be matched by other sports. Also like snooker, you do not see any players who are out of shape in the modern game, simply because you need the physical strength to be able to cope with the endurance demands of the sport. As these sports are so similar, how are McIlroy's achievements any more or less worthy than O'Sullivan's over the past 22 years?

That is not taking anything away from Rory, he is a star who has done more in the game at the age of 25 than many do in their entire careers, but he is the perfect comparison for O'Sullivan, showcasing how bizarre the snub has been. O'Sullivan could easily have been handed the award in 2013 where after taking a year out from the game, he defended his World Championship in style and with surprising ease. Could Andy Murray, 2013 Sports Personality of the Year Winner, have won Wimbledon in 2013 in these circumstances? Could McIlroy have won the Open this year without entering any other tournament for 12 months? The honest answer to these questions, is no. Yet, like in this year's award, no nomination was even shown O'Sullivan's way so as to recognise the great achievement.

The Sports Personality of the Year award is meant to recognise the talent of individuals. I find it ironic that the show this year clashed with the final of 'The X Factor'. The shows have gone on scarily similar pathways. In the early days, it was truly about the talent, with deserved winners emerging. But as the years go on, it is all about the fireworks, the drama, the glitz and glamour and of course, it is all about being politically correct. In the end, there are people who are simply more deserving that miss out on recognition whether it is because they do not have the right look, they do not have the right past, they are not the right gender, or they do the wrong sport. 

3 comments:

  1. Excellent article. O' Sullivan deserves far greater recognition for his achievements in snooker. He's on a par with the likes of Woods and Federer in terms of how far he is ahead of his contemporaries, albeit in a minority sport like snooker. Seeing Ronnie, a five-time world champion, overlooked year on year in favour of flash in the pan performers makes my blood boil.

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  2. No question O'Sullivan should have been nominated. No nomination was outrageous. Darren Clarke John Daly, John Higgins, (the late great)Stephen Lee, Shaun Murphy. Just to name a few out of shape snooker and golf player.

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  3. It is a great shame, especially for me as a player, to see snooker be looked at as a minority sport, especially regarding the fact that in the 1980s, it was arguably one of Britain's most publicised and watched sports. However, despite Barry Hearn's best efforts, I cannot see it ever reaching the heights of it's past, simply due to the growth in availability, to watch and to play, other sports, as now snooker has been put in the shadows of sorts

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