Outside Edge: Girls just wanna have recognition


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The Independent Online

Why do they call it Sports Personality of the Year? They rarely have one.

You're right, it's a misnomer. Look at Nigel Mansell, who won it twice. Brilliant racing driver, spectacularly dull man. Even Steve Davis won it. And then there was Zara Phillips, a member of the Royal Family and the horsey set who would hunt you down like a fox as soon as engage you in conversation. Not exactly the people's choice, you'd say. And she's a woman.


Hang on, that's unfair. Women can have personalities too, you know.

Where have you been, hiding in a foxhole? The point is that no woman will be able to win the award this year because none has been nominated. There was no place in the top 10 for endurance runner Chrissie Wellington, or open-water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne. Nor for Sarah Stevenson, the taekwondo fighter who nursed her terminally ill parents up to their death, then went on to win the World Championship. That takes character.


That's hardly a level playing field. Which idiots compiled this list?

Ahem, the sports editors of the national newspapers plus, bizarrely, experts from the lads' magazines Zoo and Nuts, which are not exactly known for their progressive view of a woman's place in the world. It's quite a surprise they didn't just nominate some philandering footballer's floozy for being a good sport and taking her kit off for a photoshoot.


Ridiculous. And in that spirit, who shall we give the awards to this year?

Well, let's start with the aforesaid Zara, who has earned her spurs again this year. She married Mike Tindall, who captained England at the Rugby World Cup but, six weeks after the wedding, was the centre of a media storm after frolicking with an old flame in a bar full of boozed-up folk who were throwing dwarves around. She laughed it all off manfully.


So who wins the team award? Last year it would have been Team Terry.

This year it would go to Team Rooney, with Coleen as the serene matriarch. She has endured mortification over Wayne's new hair transplant, put up with bribery attempts after someone stole her camera, and seen her father-in-law Wayne Rooney Snr and his brother Richie allegedly being involved in a betting scam. At least there was no mention of grannies causing trouble.


What about the Young SPOTY. Let's have a suitable role model for the kids.

Let's go for Chelsea Ives, the 18-year-old so-called "Olympic ambassador" who has been given a two-year prison sentence for looting during the August riots after being "shopped" by her mother. Her particular achievement has to be teaching a new generation how to run wearing two left-footed trainers. They do tend to run around in circles but that's what track stars do anyway. And if you want a legacy for 2012, she could keep the Olympic flame burning long after the Games have left town.

Ice to see you, Amundsen

The prime minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, has unveiled an ice statue of Roald Amundsen at the South Pole. His compatriot reached the pole 100 years ago last Wednesday, arriving 33 days before Captain Scott and his party. Adventurers from Norway and Britain undertook to complete the same respective treks across the world's most dangerous terrain, and again the Norwegians arrived first – although this time they cheated by flying the last leg because of poor weather conditions. Raising money for the British Legion, two teams of British soldiers, all veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, were 20 days behind them – poles apart again.

Strange outings for an innings

The world's first underground cricket match was due to be played last week between Threlkeld and Braithwaite in a cave in the old Honister slate mine in the Lake District, but it was called off because of heavy snow. Here are some other odd cricketing venues:

Since 1824, an annual match is contested on Goodwin Sands in the middle of the Channel. The game has to finish before the tide comes in.

An annual tournament has been held on the frozen lake at the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz since 1988.

But the highest-ever game was played 5,000m up Mount Everest on the Gorak Shep plateau in 2009; 50 people trekked for nine days to reach the spot.

Astronomers are said to have played on the Parkes Observatory radio telescope, according to the film The Dish.

Thin Edges: Donovan soon warms up after cold start

Richard Donovan has set a world record by running the longest distance inside a day in Antarctica. The ultramarathon runner from Galway in Ireland completed 100 miles in 24 hours, 35 minutes and two seconds. "I did feel one of my eyes freeze," he said, "and I certainly had blurry vision for a short time, but nothing much came of it." The polar running expert, who organises both the North Pole and Antarctic Ice Marathons, became the first person in history to run 26 miles at both poles in 2002, and two years ago he ran seven marathons on seven continents in a world record time of five days, 10 hours and eight minutes.


Counting the counties

John Palmer, a retired head teacher, managed to cycle through all 39 traditional English counties in just 16 days. It sounds like a phenomenal achievement, but the 64-year-old from Okehampton in Devon was pretty canny, choosing the shortest possible route which entailed a mere 1,126 miles in total. He said: "I found it very difficult to get hold of a map showing the historic county boundaries, so I used lots of separate ones and stuck them together."


Stress tests

It's not often that we spare a thought for Manchester United fans who don't like losing, but one 58-year-old season ticket-holder has been diagnosed with Addison's disease, a deficiency of the adrenal gland, because she suffers such severe stress at United's games. The condition only attacks her when United are playing their main rivals; against the lesser Premier League teams, she has no problem.


Cover story

Richard Phillips, a 77-year-old from Essex, was pinned to his bed for 11 hours after his ceiling fell in and 150 boxes containing 7,000 back issues of yachting magazines fell on him.