SPOTY 2021: Likely Winner Emma Raducanu Has Been The Success Story Of The Year

The underdog shocked the world in New York and has inspired a generation
08:00, 19 Dec 2021

Barring a massive surprise, Britain’s teenage sensation Emma Raducanu will lift the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday and become the first female recipient since Zara Phillips won in 2006. A 15 year wait between female winners seems outrageous given the talent that this country has produced, but now, that long wait looks to be coming to an end. 

Raducanu, at just 18-year-old, achieved the greatest underdog story of the year as she became the first qualifier in the sport’s history to win a Grand Slam title as she beat Canada’s Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 in New York. Before the tournament, she ranked 150th in the world having taken her first tentative steps at Wimbledon in the summer, but nobody predicted that in the Autumn, a new British sporting superstar would emerge. 

Even the youngster herself had more realistic expectations, with her flights home from the Big Apple booked for after the qualifying rounds. As it turned out she would miss that flight by about two weeks as she went on a dominant run, which saw her win ten straight matches without dropping a set. 

It was a run of performances that saw her win every set without the need for a tie-break. For a woman of just 18-years-old, she showed incredible maturity and composure and given the unwarranted criticism she came in for after her withdrawal from Wimbledon, she silenced all of her criticism in the most emphatic fashion.

Her win in the US was a huge moment for British sport, as Channel 4 paid for the rights to broadcast the final live, 9.2m people tuned in to watch her lift the famous silver trophy, which is a bigger audience than the BBC got for their coverage of Wimbledon. This huge audience, and the fact that her crowning glory was so easily accessible means that her long-term impact on young boys and girls hoping to get into the sport is already absolutely seismic.

Graphic from The Telegraph
Graphic from The Telegraph

Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 has Great Britain boasted a female Grand Slam champion and given this year Johanna Konta also retired, this country was in desperate need of a new female superstar. She might be young, but in many ways her underdog story has already endeared her to the entire nation. 

And her multi-cultural background makes her the perfect modern British sportsperson. Just like some of our finest sportspeople of the past such as quintessentially British cyclist and five-time Olympic champion Sir Bradley Wiggins, cricketing icon Kevin Pietersen and Euro 2020 star Raheem Sterling, Raducanu wasn’t born on these shores - but she was drawn here at a young age. 

Now she proudly represents the country she fell in love with on a world stage. Now she is a US Open champion. Tonight, she should become Sports Personality of the Year at the age of 19.

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