Wigan Warriors stars mix with sporting celebrities at BBC Sports Personality Awards
Wigan Warriors stars were in attendance at last night's Sports Personality of the Year awards as Geraint Thomas won the main prize.
The Super League champions were at the Birmingham ceremony along with representatives of Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons.
Welsh cyclist Thomas, who won the Tour de France at the height of summer, won a shortened public vote after a six-person shortlist was revealed at the start of the ceremony.
“Thanks for everyone that voted, I just feel really lucky to have come into cycling when I did,” said a shell-shocked Thomas.
“There’s been a lot said about inspiration this evening. I was going down the local leisure centre for a swim and ended up riding a bike...”
Thomas went on to thank his wife and family, adding: “You actually realise what we do does inspire people back home.
“I can take just as much pride from that as winning something like this.
“It’s been an amazing year for British sport. Long may it continue.”
Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of Harry Kane in third, with Lizzy Yarnold, Dina Asher-Smith and James Anderson missing out on podium places having completed the shortlist.
Tyson Fury and Ronnie O’Sullivan were among the notable omissions but the former was on stage to speak eloquently about his battle with depression, with O’Sullivan instead featuring in
Eurosport’s broadcast of the Scottish Open final.
Earlier, British racing driver Billy Monger was crowned winner of the Helen Rollason Award.
Monger’s life changed forever when he had to have his legs amputated after an awful crash at Donington Park in 2017. The 19-year-old, who returned to racing this year and finished a
remarkable third in his first British F3 race, received the prize from his hero, Hamilton.
Monger thanked his doctors for saving his life following the accident.
“A massive thank you for this award. I came here last year and had the pleasure of watching Bradley Lowery’s parents come and collect it. It was such an emotional and special moment,” he said on stage.
“I brought a few people along with me today. I have to say a massive thanks to my doctors and surgeons because without these guys I might not be here today.
“It’s a real honour to be able to share the stage with them. They saved my life.”
American tennis great Billie Jean King was given the lifetime achievement by her friend, fellow tennis player and BBC presenter Sue Barker.
King, now 75, won 39 grand slam titles, including 20 at Wimbledon, but she was also a pioneer for gender equality in sport and famously took on male player, and self-confessed
chauvinist, Bobby Riggs in the 1973 ‘battle of the sexes’.
Perhaps the least surprising winner was Gareth Southgate taking the Coach of the Year accolade following England’s pleasantly surprising run to the World Cup’s last four.
Before announcing the prize, the BBC showed a review of Russia 2018 just to remind us how excited Southgate and his team got everyone this summer.
Of course, they came up short against Croatia, but results since the World Cup suggest Southgate and the Three Lions should get other chances to win England’s first silverware since 1966 in the coming years.
The 48-year-old received his trophy from David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and Ian Broudie, who had teamed up earlier to serenade him with a rendition of “Three Lions”, a song Southgate used to dislike because it reminded him of his penalty miss at Euro 96.
Those days are behind him now and Skinner thanked the England boss “for all the royalties”.
Southgate was given the award by Harry Kane, a contender for the main trophy.
He said on stage: “We’ve had an incredible group of players who have acquitted themselves brilliantly and have an incredible support team.
“Ultimately we didn’t quite win and I’m conscious of that. Until we all win we won’t rest, sit back and be satisfied.”
“Sport is about inspiring people and bringing people enjoyment, we loved the journey with all of you.”
Kirsty Ewen, a swimming coach from Inverness, received the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award from former Olympic heptathlon champi