Personality? Here in Birmingham it was actually hard to look beyond Billy Monger. That jaw-dropping moment when he crashed; that spirit; that speech.
The teenage racing driver received the Helen Rollason Award for climbing back behind the wheel less than a year after amputations to both of his legs but, my word, there was a case for giving a remarkable young man the main prize on Sunday night.
That honour, however, went to Geraint Thomas, and it might well have been another emotionally-charged piece of video footage that clinched it for the Welshman. A repeat of the interview when Thomas broke down at being told he had just won the Tour de France clearly had an impact on the audience, not least across the Severn Bridge one imagines.
Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018
Thomas speaks after winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday night
Thomas got the nod ahead of Lewis Hamilton (right) and England football captain Harry Kane
And one can only speculate because the BBC did not release the voting figures, apparently because Spoty has now fallen into line with other programmes that call on the views of the public.
With Rob Brydon joining some major Welsh rugby stars in calling on their Twitter followers to support Thomas, it’s safe to assume the Welsh vote was significant. Not to mention the support of the cycling community with Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish also getting behind their man.
Harry Kane came into the show as favourite but for that ascent of Alpe d’Huez, and securing a victory all the more impressive because Team Sky were actually set up to deliver Froome to the summit of the mountains as well as the podium in Paris, Thomas got the nod ahead of Lewis Hamilton and the England football captain.
BBC Sports Personality of the Year contenders (left-right) Lizzy Yarnold, Hamilton, Thomas, James Anderson, Dina Asher-Smith and Kane
‘This is insane,’ said Thomas, who earlier in the day had been presented with a replacement Tour de France trophy that had been stolen, by coincidence from this venue three months ago.
Only days after Sky announced their intention to withdraw their backing of a cycling team whose dominance has been marred by controversy these past two years, Thomas’s crowning moment could have been rather uncomfortable for the national broadcaster. But their blushes were spared to some extent by Theresa May, whose own voting story managed to limit Sky to the briefest of mentions on News At Ten earlier in the week.
A new format with a shortlist announced only once the show had been opened by Paloma Faith provided some extra suspense.
When Lizzy Yarnold was revealed as the final name of the ‘sensational six’, viewers discovered Tyson Fury had not made the cut despite being here in Birmingham with his wife.
Teenage racing driver Billy Monger receives the Helen Rollason Award in Birmingham
No, a panel of experts who also ignored Anthony Joshua had opted instead for Kane, Dina Asher-Smith, Jimmy Anderson, Thomas, Hamilton and Britain’s greatest winter Olympian. And while the shortlist was agreed by the judges prior to Fury’s efforts in Los Angeles, the BBC insisted on Sunday night that they could have removed one of the six and replaced them with the heavyweight.
Sound judgement persuaded them to leave it as it was, and once the nominees had made it on to the stage, it was then left to Sir Mo Farah to return with the trophy he won last year. At least he was here this time.
Yarnold’s video was first up, the double Olympic gold medallist narrating it herself, before a reminder of Hamilton’s mastery on the racetrack. Hamilton told us he had come a long way since the ‘slums’ of, er, Stevenage.
Thomas and the cricketing Adonis that is Anderson would follow, then Kane and Asher-Smith. Anderson was 250-1 before the show and and miles behind Fury, who was fourth favourite. But, again, the judges made a good call.
Heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury did not make the shortlist for the main prize but spoke on stage
Fury might not have made the shortlist for the main prize but he was considered for the award for the Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year and he was also given an opportunity to speak to Gary Lineker on stage.
In fairness he did well, delivering his message on mental health before wishing everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’. The heavyweight boxer who climbed off the canvas after being knocked out cold by Deontay Wilder did not, however, win that vote either. Instead it was the last-second victory for the England netball team for the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, and for pure sporting drama rightly so.
Tracey Neville’s netballers also won the Team of the Year award, while the resurgence of the England men’s football team under the guidance of Gareth Southgate earned him the Coach of the Year award.
At the World Cup Southgate admitted he could not listen to ‘Three Lions’ for 20 years so bitter was his personal disappointment at Euro 96. Last night he was presented with his award by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Ian Broudie. ‘Thanks so much for the royalties,’ said Skinner cheekily.
Gareth Southgate receives award for Coach of the Year from David Baddiel and Frank Skinner
It came as no surprise to see Francesco Molinari voted the World Sport Star of the Year.
But you want a sporting hero? In the view of this observer look no further than Monger, on the stage on Sunday night with the medical staff who saved his life and then back shortly before the close of the show – having been inadvertently cut off earlier by Clare Balding – to pay tribute to his parents.