The contenders have been selected by a panel of judges led by chair Alyson Rudd, from a longlist of 15 announced in September.
Among the five shortlisted authors vying for the £30,000 prize are those who come from a world outside of mainstream sport which has traditionally dominated literary awards.
Authors to have won the award include Nick Hornby, Brian Moore, Marcus Trescothick, two-time winner Donald McRae and three-time winner Duncan Hamilton.
This year's shortlist includes Ruqsana Begum’s Born Fighter, an account of how she rose to become Muay Thai world champion, fighting in secret from a young age as she navigated life as a young Muslim woman in Bethnal Green.
Scott Ellsworth’s The World Beneath Their Feet tells the story of the race to the top of the world, charting the competition between British, American and German powers to reach the top of Everest involving some of the world’s greatest mountaineers, statesmen, millionaires, scientists and eccentrics.
Sportswriter turned author Ian Ridley is named for his book The Breath of Sadness: On Love, Grief & Cricket, a poignant account of living with grief following the loss of his beloved wife Vikki Orvice, herself a legendary sportswriter and one of the first female football reporters. Ridley’s book tells the tale of his journey back to county cricket as a way to cope with his loss and to revisit the memories they shared together throughout endless summers following one of England’s favourite pastimes.
Cricket is a continuing theme with Ashley Gray’s The Unforgiven exploring the aftermath of the infamous rebel tours of apartheid South Africa by West Indian cricketers who saw it as a way to escape poverty, but were instead cast out and condemned by the international cricketing fraternity. Gray’s book looks into the irony that saw them accused of pocketing 'blood money' to prop up a regime that discriminated against people of their colour.
And completing this year’s list is former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, renowned for his involvement in the state-run doping programme. Rodchenkov has been in hiding since his participation in Bryan Fogel’s award-winning documentary Icarus, in which he revealed the true extent of the Russian doping scandal. Rodchenkov’s The Rodchenkov Affair sheds new light on the story, following his childhood growing up under the Iron Curtain, right through to his career with the Soviet Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Centre in 2015.
The winning author will be announced on Thursday, December 3 and will take home the £30,000 cash prize and trophy. Shortlisted authors will each receive £3,000 and a leather-bound copy of their book.
Rudd said: “This year's shortlist is dazzling and proves how wide the range is in sports writing. There is revelation and pathos, investigation and confession, grief and devotion. The writing is by turns beautiful, poetic, riveting and clever. Pleasingly, more books either written by or about women were submitted for this year's award and the judging process promises to be particularly passionate and lively”, said Rudd.