Rebecca Adlington is the new favourite to become the BBC Sports Personality of the Year after a flood of money continued to pour in at bookmakers across the country yesterday. The 19-year-old Olympic swimmer, who won two gold medals in Beijing, is now the odds-on favourite, at around 5-6, having displaced the long-time front-runner, Lewis Hamilton, now the second favourite at around 7-4.
Only one other contender on a shortlist of 10 – the cyclist Chris Hoy – has any chance at all of shocking that pair, according to the betting. Hoy is 5-1, with the next closest contender, Joe Calzaghe, at 33-1. The decision will be made solely by a public phone vote during the live broadcast on Sunday between 7pm and 9pm.
Most high-street bookmakers, including William Hill, have seen a surge of bets of up to £500 a time on Adlington. "It seems the public feel that Olympic achievement outdoes a contest held annually," said a spokesman for William Hill, Graham Sharpe. "Or maybe Lewis's lustre has come off because he is seen as a tax-dodger. I've been studying this event for 30 years and it still baffles me. I would also warn Rebecca that she, and not Lewis, will now need to avoid the recent curse of the favourites. Lewis last year and Darren Clarke in 2006 were both hot favourites on the morning of the show but got beaten."
After weekend money sent Adlington's odds crashing, she became the clear favourite overnight on Sunday into yesterday on the betting exchanges. A Betfair spokesman, Tony Calvin, said: "There has been an extraordinary gamble on Adlington in the past few days and she is now the odds-on favourite." One Betfair customer placed a £2 wager on Adlington before she won her medals, at 999-1.