In an ill-fitting suit and tie and looking like a naughty school boy who had been called in to see Headmistress Balding, Adam Peaty gave his little sales pitch at last night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Belfast. It was very endearing.
He genuinely seemed a nice guy, completely out of his depth in the media spotlight (as you might expect), but thankfully not in the water. “I’m no good at this talking stuff but I’m alright at swimming,” he told her.
That’s perhaps a little bit of an understatement! This is a guy who is (virtually) singlehandedly putting swimming back in the spotlight where it belongs as has smashed World Records in the Breaststroke events this year, become the first swimmer to go sub 58 seconds in the 100m .
Although probably no one outside of the world of swimming has ever heard of him, this is sure to change if all goes according to plan in Rio at the Olympics next year and I believe it will.
Remarkably, if you look at the past Top 3 Sports Personality of The Year Awards over the years below swimming features quite highly: sixth in fact. Leading the way is Athletics (of course) but it’s certainly well ahead of more specialist sports like gymnastics and Rugby League.
And yet last night gymnast Max Whitlock polled twice as many votes as Adam Peaty and Kevin Sinfield – whom I’d never heard of until yesterday – came second with over 20 times the number of votes! Only the female footballer Lucy Bronze polled less – and this is really because women’s football is only just becoming established as a professional sport in the UK.
None of this is to decry Adam’s achievements. Last year, he came last by some way, this year second from last with nearly 4000 more votes. So things are moving in the right direction. But until swimming is shown on TV more regularly (outside of the Olympics) then I fear that the days of swimmers being household names again, like they were in the 1970s and 1980s, are over.
Regular TV coverage required
To me it’s no coincidence that you regularly see Diamond League Athletics on the box, but none of the World Cup Swimming events are ever shown on TV. You can’t even find the events streamed online most of the time.
Even Adam Peaty’s World Record breaking swims were only initially seen by the swimming community because a coach had filmed them on a mobile phone!
Until this changes and swimming gets the recognition it deserves then it’s going to be a long time before we see a real personality emerge from the pool and it’s going to be even longer before the downturn in pool swimming among the general public is reversed.
Sports Personality of the Year 2015 Full Results
Andy Murray polled 361,446 vote followed by: Kevin Sinfield 278,353, Jessica Ennis-Hill 79,898, Tyson Fury 72,330, Lewis Hamilton 48,379, Chris Froome 39,007, Mo Farah 31,311, Max Whitlock 25,925, Greg Rutherford 23,492, Lizzie Armitstead 22,356, Adam Peaty 13,738, Lucy Bronze 13,236.