Wilkinson is down, but far from out

Sports Personality of the Year: England's rugby hero might have a broken shoulder, but it won't stop him winning the BBC award
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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson may have scored his World Cup-winning drop goal with a broken shoulder, a hospital scan revealed yesterday. Wilkinson, who is now expected to be out of the game for two to three weeks, sustained the fracture to his shoulder bone "several weeks ago", according to his club, Newcastle Falcons.

Wilkinson is the runaway favourite to pick up tonight's 50th annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year award following England's triumph in the rugby World Cup in Australia. He has become so popular that bookmakers were refusing to take bets on the outcome of the award even before the World Cup finished.

With tonight's contest a shoo-in - barring shenanigans by Australians trying to wreck it by voting for Tim Henman - interest instead focused on whom the nation would choose tonight as its Golden Sports Personality, the greatest-ever winner of the trophy.

Over the past week, the BBC has been inviting viewers to register their votes for this one-off award, choosing from the list of previous winners. The short list of five was being jealously guarded prior to broadcast, but frontrunners were thought to be the rower Sir Steve Redgrave, former England cricketer Ian Botham, former heavyweight boxer Sir Henry Cooper, athlete Paula Radcliffe and footballers David Beckham, Paul Gascoigne and the late Sir Bobby Moore.

Of the 40 surviving Sports Personalities, 35 are expected to attend, including Christopher Chataway, the inaugural winner in 1953.

Sir Henry, 69, one of only three people to have won the award twice, was upbeat before tonight's ceremony. "It's going to be close," he said. "I might get a few votes, but I don't think I'll win it. It's going to be a great evening though. All us older geezers are going to be there, all getting a bit balder, and a lot fatter.

"The British sporting world is on a high at the moment, and this has come along at just the right time. They normally have a party after the show, and I bet they're really going to go to town this year."

Sir Henry's achievement has been equalled only by the racing drivers Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.

Sports Personality of the Year continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Britain's sports men and women.

Sir Henry said: "This is the one that all the athletes want to win - because it's voted for by the British public."

Condensing 50 years of glittering achievement into just two hours presented something of a headache to the programme makers.

The programme's editor, Philip Bernie, said: "Through its heritage ... Sports Personality of the Year has become the most prestigious sports award that you can win ... so it seemed entirely right to celebrate that. If you look at the people who have won it, the quality is unrivalled.

"There are very strong short lists for the awards, and it would be difficult to think of a greater collection of British sports stars in one place at one time."

However, despite Mr Bernie's claims, in terms of this year's award it was looking very much like the next chapter of the Jonny Wilkinson show - broken shoulder or not.