Scots tennis ace Andy Murray, who stole the hearts of the nation after his historic Wimbledon victory, has been crowned BBC Sports Personality of Year.
Murray, who was red-hot favourite to scoop the prestigious prize, was named this year’s winner after securing a majority of the votes.
However, the sportsman, who sealed his love affair with fans after Olympic gold in 2012 and Wimbledon victory this summer made him national hero, was unable to collect his prize from the Leeds studio as he was training in Miami, Florida, after undergoing a back operation,
Instead, he was presented with his trophy by tennis legend Martina Navratilova.
After being told he was this year’s winner of the 60th BBC Sports Personality of the Year, he said: “There are a few people I would like to thank. Firstly my family, there is a lot of them in the crowd. They have supported me since I was kid, and made a lot of sacrifices.”
He also thanked his “team” who were with him in Miami, adding: “I also couldn’t do this without them. I would also like to thank the public for voting for me and given me so much support over the year. I know sometimes I’m not the easiest person to support.”
He also apologised for not sounding excited enough about his win.
“Even when I am excited my voice sounds incredibly boring. I’m excited right now, that’s just how my voice sounds.”
Those who were challenging Murray included jockey AP McCoy, who rode his 4,000th winner last month, and Mo Farah, who added a world championship 5,000m and 10,000m double to his two gold medals from London’s Olympics.
Other contenders were Tour de France winner Chris Froome, Sir Ben Ainslie, mastermind of victory in the America’s Cup, Justin Rose, the US Open winner, and 400m runner Christine Ohuruogu, the first British woman to claim two world athletics titles.
Most bookmakers had made the Wimbledon men’s champion – Britain’s first at the All England Club since Fred Perry 77 years ago – an unbackable 1/50. He was also odds-on to be the first winner since fellow Scot Sir Chris Hoy in 2008 to receive more than half the votes.
An estimated audience of 14 million viewers was invited to travel back to last summer to watch Murray’s Wimbledon win.
Speaking before the ceremony, he said: “There are some very deserving athletes on the list. I’d have liked to have been in Leeds but my training and rehab schedule meant I couldn’t make the trip. I have to give myself the best chance of success in the Australian Open.”
“I’d like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement. I can still vividly remember the inspirational atmosphere at Wimbledon.”
That win, when he defeated world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the final in straight sets, was to be almost his last stand of the year.
However, he endured the recurrence of a serious back problem to ensure Britain returned to the World Group of the Davis Cup for 2014 by beating Croatia in September, then took the decision to have surgery.
Now he is training under the watchful eye of his coach, Ivan Lendl.
He is due to fly back to London in time for Christmas before flying out to Abu Dhabi on Boxing Day for an exhibition event including Djokovic and Roger Federer.
He will then play his first tournament since the US Open, in Qatar, which will be his only warm-up ahead of the Australian Open.
Murray said he agonised over the invitation to attend the ceremony in Leeds but eventually heeded the advice of Lendl, who told him that interrupting his training schedule might jeopardise his comeback at the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne in five weeks.
Murray told friends he was desperate not to appear to be delivering “a snub” to the BBC – with whom he has a good working relationship – or the nation, for that matter.
The Scot beat British and Irish Lions rugby union player Leigh Halfpenny who finished second, and McCoy in third place.