Beth Mead has been crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2022 after England’s run-in to a history-making European Championship propelled women’s football into the mainstream.
The 27-year-old fought off competition from Ben Stokes and Ronnie O’Sullivan for the award, taking to the stage at MediaCity in Salford to collect the award after sustaining a serious knee injury last month.
Meade said she was “speechless for once” and stopped crying as she thanked her mother, who is receiving treatment for cancer, and received a standing ovation from the sports stars in the crowd.
Mead said, “I definitely wouldn’t have done this without my dad and mom and all of my family. Most of all it’s women’s sport and women’s sport going in the right direction. Let’s keep pushing girls and doing the right things.”
Mead was the favorite after her tournament-best six goals and five assists helped the Lionesses reach the Wembley final where they defeated eight-time champions Germany to claim their first major trophy – and England’s first since 1966.
The award completed a clean sweep of England women at the 69th Sports Personality of the Year awards. They also won Team of the Year and Coach of the Year with Sarina Wiegmann – the first woman to receive the award in its 23-year history.
This is the first time in half a century that women have won the top prize in consecutive years, following Emma Raducano’s victory in 2021. The last time 21-year-old Princess Anne took home the award for winning gold in the 1971 event, followed a year later by Quintet Mary Peters.
But it is also a bittersweet victory for Meade, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Arsenal last month – an injury that nearly ruled her out of next year’s World Cup – and has had to deal with her mother’s struggles with cancer.
Mead hinted at her personal struggles in an interview with Alex Scott earlier in the night when she was asked how her Lioness castmates helped her overcome problems, and her father and brother watched from the audience.
“The girls are like a family away from home and when things at home weren’t so good, they supported me so well,” she said, appearing briefly emotional.
The attacker, whose mother briefly tried to encourage her to take up ballet before realizing her daughter was a much better soccer player, later told reporters she would die happy after winning Spotty.
When asked if she had any advice for any future Lionesses inspired by playing the game this year, Mead said she played her best football “when I was playing for the love of the six-year-old who started”. “So I would say to you, enjoy every moment and don’t forget why you play football.”
The award caps a lightning year for the soccer player, who has spoken candidly about “hate” being left out of GB’s squad for the 2020 Olympics, and most poignantly about her mother’s ongoing cancer treatment.
Mead told the Guardian last month that she had spent the whole year “trying to put a smile on my mum’s face”. There is perhaps no more fitting way to end 2022 than with the coveted BBC award.
Seven of Mead’s Lioness colleagues took home the Team of the Year award, which was presented by Gary Lineker, Gabe Logan, Alex Scott and Claire Balding.
Jill Scott, having been crowned Queen of the Jungle in I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, said she hopes the team’s victory will inspire a lot of girls to order soccer shoes this Christmas “and they’ll be labeled regular” I also accepted their award.
Stokes, who came second, could have made a strong claim to the coveted wing, had it not been for Mead’s golden year. Stokes battered England to glory in the T20 World Cup and took over as Test captain in April – the first year culminated in England’s first away Test series victory in Pakistan in 22 years.
Eve Muirhead, who won Olympic gold with women’s skipping curling at the Beijing Winter Games, came third in the competition, which is decided by live public vote from a shortlist chosen by a panel of experts.
One of the most emotional moments of the night came when former England rugby league player and Leeds Rhinos Rob Borow received a standing ovation while presenting the Helen Rollason Award for his work in raising awareness of his condition, motor neurone disease.
Onstage alongside wife Lindsey Burrow, the ex-partner’s half said he was “totally overcome” and was “inspired to keep going” by his close friend and former teammate Kevin Seinfeld, who held back tears as he got a special show. Award for his extraordinary fundraising efforts.
Seinfeld, who has raised more than £7m by running seven marathons in seven days in 2020 and running 300 miles from Edinburgh to Manchester in a week last month, described Borough as “the most inspiring man in the UK right now”, adding : “It inspired us all to be better friends.”
There was some controversy even before the first trophy was handed over when Lineker joined a chorus of criticism over the omission of Matt Fitzpatrick, 28, who won golf’s prestigious US Open title in June.
Lineker tweeted two embarrassing emojis over the decision not to include Fitzpatrick in the shortlist, while two-time World Golf Championship winner Ian Poulter called the awards “a travesty and an ongoing joke”.
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