Lucy Charles-Barclay is given a better chance by the bookmakers than England men’s football captain Harry Kane of winning this year’s BBC Sports Personality Award.
Lucy won the IRONMAN World Championship in stunning style in Kona last month after four successive second places there.
Against arguably the strongest full-distance female field to have ever lined up in Hawaii she led from the gun as she bossed the swim, bike and run to set a new course record.
‘Shoo-in for a nomination’?
Plenty of praise and publicity has followed and she appeared on Channel 4’s ‘Sunday Brunch’ last weekend, with presenter Tim Lovejoy mentioning the end-of-year BBC award.
“Are you up for Sports Personality of the Year, surely you must be? You’ve got to be a shoo-in for that?” he asked.
To which LCB replied: “It would be amazing. Triathlon is quite a niche sport. Most people know it with the Olympic distance. My race in Kona was four times the distance of that. So to get people committed to watch me to race for eight hours is quite hard. But that would be amazing if I did get nominated.”
Perhaps illustrating the current mainstream profile of long-distance triathlon, Charles-Barclay wasn’t in any bookmaker lists for the SPOTY award but we’ve contacted Skybet and they have now added her at 125/1. That’s ahead of Kane, who has made such a strong start to the season since his move to Bayern Munich, at 150/1.
But they are both well down the list in a market which is dominated by Lioness’ goalkeeper Mary Earps and cricketer Stuart Broad.
Triathlon’s only previous appearance on the SPOTY podium came in 2016 when Alistair Brownlee was runner-up after successfully defending his Olympic title in Rio – and helping brother Jonny make it to the finish line in Cozumel.
However other sports have gone from niche to mainstream in recent times – most notably cycling, which didn’t have anyone in the top three for over 40 years until Sir Chris Hoy won the award in 2008 and he was quickly followed by Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas.
Moving in the right direction
And the SPOTY award has changed markedly for the better in the last decade or so after a low point in 2011 when not a single woman was named on the 10-person shortlist.
That was part of the reason that led triathlon legend Chrissie Wellington, who became the first Briton to win in Kona (Charles-Barclay was the third), to boycott that year’s awards.
She had won a fourth IMWC title just before and said on Twitter: “No women in @bbcspoty top ten. It’s not about me, it’s about the need to celebrate achievements of so many female GBR athletes. Disgraceful.”
But the gender parity that triathlon is rightly so proud of has been more in evidence at the awards in recent years, though there wasn’t a female winner from that point until 2021 when the public voted for US Open tennis champion Emma Raducanu and last year when England football star Beth Mead came out on top after leading her country to Euro 2022 glory and winning the Golden Boot.
Charles-Barclay, who has been named as the PTO’s Athlete of the Month for October, also indicated in the ‘Sunday Brunch’ interview that middle rather than long distance will now be her immediate focus.
She said: “Now in triathlon there’s a new and really exciting series from the PTO, which is the Professional Triathletes Organisation, that race lasts for just about three hours and is the 100km distance. So it would be fun to watch and I think people could tune in for that long and it’s really exciting.
“They want to make it like the F1 of triathlons so that the top 15 athletes will race multiple times a year and there’ll be a World Champion crowned at the end of the year. So that will be my goal going forward.”