Sailing: MacArthur outdone by nature of contest

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The Independent Online

I have been chastised, no doubt some would say properly, for failing to mention the epic deeds of yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur in a recent piece discussing the claims of David Beckham and Michael Owen in the voting for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award.

One or two points seem beyond debate. The most obvious is that while the relative merits of Beckham and Owen could be analysed and compared by anyone with a basic knowledge of our national game, a fact which rendered the decision in Beckham's favour absurd, what MacArthur did sailed beyond the normal boundaries of professional sport. That she didn't win was not to do with her achievement, but with the nature of the contest.

What we can be utterly certain of is that she wouldn't have traded half an hour of her lonely splendour at sea for the often flawed glory of the Beeb's much-hyped annual popularity contest. Talking about flawed glory, Beckham, who has missed Manchester United's last four games because his manager believes that on current form he is unworthy of selection, was yesterday voted the second-best player in the world. The mind would still be reeling, but for the announcement of Michael Owen as Europe's Player of the Year. All judgement on football, it is good to know, is not in complete ruins.

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