The evergreen Ryan Giggs was crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year last night, taking pole position in the public vote ahead of the pre-event favourite Jenson Button, who was second, and Jessica Ennis, third.
Giggs, 36, the most decorated player in the history of English football, has won 11 Premier League titles and two European Cups in 20 years with Manchester United but still said winning last night "is up there". He also joked his latest trophy will come in handy in earning a new contract. "I might have to put it on the table," he said.
Giggs polled 29.4 per cent of the votes (151,842 votes) to win from Button (96,770 votes) and Ennis (80,469). The other finalists, in order of most votes, were cyclist Mark Cavendish, gymnast Beth Tweddle, diver Tom Daley, tennis's Andy Murray, cricketer Andrew Strauss, boxer David Haye and triple-jumper Phillips Idowu.
Giggs appeared genuinely shocked by winning. He had not prepared a speech, and said he was nervous to be mingling with his own sporting heroes, including Seb Coe and Michael Johnson. "I've been lucky to win a lot in my career, playing for the greatest manager who's ever lived, for the greatest club, but this is up there," he said.
Button, who won the Formula One title this season having been unemployed this time last year, was the hot favourite for last night's main award. Giggs moved into contention in the bookmakers' lists last week, then during last night's programme became the odds-on favourite.
As has become custom in recent years, the most emotional scenes of the evening came with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Sir Bobby Charlton last year and Sir Bobby Robson before him left few dry eyes when they picked up that award. Seve Ballesteros, five times a Major winner, was honoured last night for his contribution to golf, and received his trophy at home in Spain from his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal.
Ballesteros was unable to travel because he remains frail from his fight with brain cancer, something that evidently moved Olazabal, who was almost crying as he described his friend's career achievements thus: "You did it with a lot of imagination, a lot of skill, and most of all you did it with your heart."
Olazabal needed to compose himself at one stage. "This is very emotional for me too, Seve," he said to Ballesteros, who injected a moment of levity by patting Olazabal's arm and saying: "You're doing OK."
Among those missing out on the major gong was England's cricket captain, Strauss, but England's cricketers won the Team of the Year award for regaining the Ashes.
Coach of the Year award went to Fabio Capello, for leading England to the 2010 World Cup finals, and transforming their fortunes in general. He confirmed he wants to stay in his job until his contract expires in 2012.
The teenage diving prodigy Daley had to settle for winning the Young Sports Personality of the Year award for the second time, after winning in 2007. His award came after he was crowned world diving champion on the 10m high board this summer.
Usain Bolt won the Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award for the second straight year. Major Phil Packer won the Helen Rollason Award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity. He was told he would never walk again after suffering a spinal injury in Iraq but completed the London marathon course in 13 days on crutches, raising £1.2m for charity.