Mark Cavendish has made it into the final ten for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.

Nothing divides sports fans like the annual BBC SPOTY awards, which in recent years has turned into a glitzy Big Brother, X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity-style public phone vote-a-thon.

Where mainstream reality shows often allow the frequent viewer a chance – between careful editing, of course – to assess the subject’s personality, sport does not. An athlete is represented by their sporting performance – quite rightly – with most only getting a chance to air their personality in a breathless post-event interview.

It is this fact that makes the SPOTY award something of a folly. It’s good that the public should vote for a winner rather than it being left to a faceless panel of judges, but how should we decide who to vote for? Should we vote for someone based on their sporting performance? Or because we’ve heard of them? Or because they said something funny in the short interview during the show itself?

Cavendish provides the answer. He offers the perfect antidote to the usual sportsperson’s monotonal interview littered with ‘erms’ and ‘you knows’.

He is gracious in his victory, enthusiastically thanking his team-mates not because the PR man told him to in the pre-race team bus media briefing, but because he actually appreciates what they do for him.

When he loses, he can be brittle. His passion for his sport runs deep and when things haven’t gone to plan he’ll often speak his mind when a microphone is stuffed into his face. Ask for a comment, and you’ll get one. Straight from the heart.

His total recall of the final 1km of any race he takes part in is the envy of race reporters the world over, but most of all when Cavendish wins, it looks like it meant something. Every time. And that’s a lot. At 25, he is already Britain’s most successful cyclist in the sport’s history.

You can guarantee that he’ll say what he thinks and be sure of what he is saying. He’s as entertaining off the bike as he is on it. And despite all of the success and its distractions, he has remembered where he has come from.

Cavendish was one of the few top-level cyclists to ride in the Commonwealth Games men’s road race in Delhi this year. Whilst others cried off with fears of illness or terrorism, Cavendish grasped at one of the few chances he gets to represent his home nation, the Isle of Man.

A young and relatively inexperienced Manx team helped him as much as they could during the sweltering race, until only Cavendish had the legs to continue with the leaders. The relentless course didn’t really suit him, and he kept losing touch with the lead bunch only to fight his way back up again. Even in a race he didn’t win, Cavendish was there to provide the excitement. And the passion.

A few days later, Cavendish was seen in an Isle of Man T-shirt mucking-in with team duties during the time trial to repay his young team-mates efforts for him in the road race.

There are very few athletes from any sport who would do such a thing.

And very few that have a personality like Mark Cavendish.

Related links

2011: Cavendish on BBC Sports Personality shortlist

2010: Cavendish on BBC Sports Personality shortlist

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile

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  • Berry Baker

    Well I will vote for Cav because he actually has a personality unlike most sportsmen and women. There can be few more thrilling sights in sport than him flying past the best sprinters in the world when they are going flat out. Yes, he has a great lead out team, but he is worth working for. And win or lose, a Cav interview is always worth listening to.

  • Tim Hiscocks

    Cavendish has all the personality of a coma induced hippo

  • Angharad

    Cyclists are so rarely chosen, I’d vote for him if whatever he’d done except doping. He is a prat at times but he’s also the best road sprinter at the moment and probably the best chance we have for the first British Men’s road race world champion since Tommy Simpson.

    I still think Cooke should have got it for winning the Olympic and Worlds in the same year – no one else has ever done it, but then she never gets the acclaim she deserves and no one ever listens to me anyway.

  • Dave Hunt

    He Should win the sports personality disorder of the year. Spitting on Heinrich Hausler as ahe lay injured on the floor from a crash that Cavandish himself caused is totallty inexcusable. Something which your magazine has glossed over. The award should not be given to a Sports Person who behaves in that way. The only award he should get is one handed out by the County magistrate.

  • Jez Cordon

    I’m really pleased Cav has once again been nominated; very deserving. I agree with your comments about him and without doubt he is as entertaining off the bike as much as on it, brittle or not.
    What a shame though that a darts player has to be nominated along with “real” sports men and women like Cav or Amy Williams. I also hope that Cav will be credited with more than just the 2010 Tour stages he won. There is the Vuelta to consider and his points jersey win.
    However, somehow, and following the fact that cycling swept the board after Beijing, I don’t think the award will go to Cav, unfortunetely. If it doesn’t then in my view it should, without a doubt, go to Amy Williams.

  • Leslie Stoddart

    What a great article. I have to say that my favourite piece of sporting footage from this year is the side on shot of the closing stage on the Champs Elysees. You can see how fast the other guys are going and then Cav just comes past them like a train. Wonderful! Cav would be a worthy winner of SPOTY and will definitely be getting my vote