The Ian Wooldridge award: Tell us your sporting star of 2009


Chrissie Wellington, Rebecca Adlington, who is next? The Ian Wooldridge award, named after Sportsmail’s legendary columnist, is in its third year and it is time for you to decide who best represents the sporting values of fair play, style and courage that he respected so much. You can choose anyone, but they must still be competing or have retired within the past five years. To help you, Sportsmail’s writers have weighed in with their own favourites...


Jenson Button

Nominated by Jonathan McEvoy
Ian may have detected something of his great friend James Hunt in Jenson Button: the air of a Spitfire ace and the likelihood that, when the last reel played, he would end up with the girl. Thirty-three years separated their Formula One world championship triumphs, but Hunt and Button are joined by a quintessential Englishness that would have resonated at Ian’s end of the bar.

He would have liked the smile with which Button dealt with successive seasons of sub-standard cars; would have sympathised with the vulnerability he showed as he struggled to close out the championship, and admired his sportsmanship in eschewing mind games and name-calling as the season reached its climax. I am also confident that Ian would have enjoyed Button’s rakish streak and hailed him as the type of spirited buccaneer which modern sport desperately needs.


Nominated by Mike Dickson
There is no question that Ian would have been immensely impressed by the courage shown by Major Phil Packer, who lost the use of both legs after suffering severe spinal injuries while serving in Iraq. He defied medical opinion to complete the London Marathon course in 13 days.

He started with other competitors on April 26 and finally crossed the finish line on May 9. He had only started learning to use crutches the previous month. His efforts raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Help For Heroes, a charity which would have met with Ian’s wholehearted support. Ian admired acts of modest heroism, and fully understood where sporting endeavour stood in the grand scheme of things.

Major Phil Packer

Courageous: Major Phil Packer


Nominated by Chris Foy
One of Ian’s all-time favourites was Mary Peters, who won pentathlon gold for Britain at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He admired her indomitable spirit as well as her skill and he would see those qualities in another multi-sport athlete, Jessica Ennis.

The 23-year-old from Sheffield suffered heartbreak in 2008 when a stress fracture in an ankle ended her dreams of Olympic gold in Beijing. Fighting her way back to fitness after being out of action for a year, Ennis set about making up for missing the Games by targeting the World Championships. She went to Berlin as the World No 1 heptathlete and duly won gold. She raised her game when it mattered, recording a personal best 6,731 points.

Her reaction to adversity, her ability to thrive on the grandest stages at such a young age and her grace and modesty in handling her success and fame make Ennis an ideal candidate for this award.

Graeme Swann

Beautiful Swann: England spinner takes another wicket


Nominated by Paul Newman
There is a perfect candidate for the Ian Wooldridge award in English cricket and his name is Graeme Swann. The off-spinning all-rounder meets all the
criteria and fits the bill perfectly.

Ian would have loved his joie de vivre, his competitiveness and the fact that a smile rarely leaves his face. Swann has had to work hard to reach his current exalted status because he was banished back to county cricket after a chastening first senior tour to South Africa 10 years ago.

Now he is back there after an outstanding first full year of Test cricket in which he is the second leading wicket-taker in the world and has hit four half-centuries, all brimming with gusto, invention and swashbuckling imagination.


Nominated by Jeff Powell
Jenson Button came second in BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year awards but he would have been at the top of Ian’s list - not least for the gallant manner in which he deferred to the worthy Ryan Giggs.

The flamboyant Button would have appealed to Ian. So would his cavalier approach to driving the fastest machines on four wheels.

Button’s charge into the first few races of the season, followed by the scrapes which threatened his lead, and his daredevil drive in the Grand Prix which gave him his title, climaxed by the champagne celebrations in the company of beautiful women - all would have endeared him to Woolers.


Nominated by Matt Lawton
Ian would have adored Jessica Ennis. Mary Peters, the 1972 Olympic pentathlon champion, was someone he greatly admired and Ennis has followed in her golden spike prints as a multi-events specialist.

Ian would have loved the way she fought back from the serious ankle injury that denied her the opportunity to compete in the Beijing Olympics. The injury forced her to change her lift-off foot and so learn how to long-jump all over again.

She won gold in the World Championships in Berlin with a personal best performance. But what would have excited Ian is the fact that there is so much more to come. Still just 23, Ennis is one of the big British favourites to win gold at the London Olympics.

Jessica Ennis

Multi-talented: Jessica Ennis


Nominated by Derek Lawrenson
How the great man would have loved the story of Catriona Matthew, the Scots lass who escaped from a burning building one week and set the women’s British Open alight the next. If that wasn’t enough drama to be going on with, 10 weeks earlier, Catriona had given birth to her second child.

Who would have blamed her if she had taken the following week off after she and husband Graeme narrowly escaped from their burning apartment?

Royal Lytham’s back nine is among the most fabled in all of golf, but Matthew, ahem, left scorch marks by going round it in just 30 shots in the second round. Leading by three going into the final day, Matthew recovered from a wobbly start to play nerveless golf when it mattered most and became the first British golfer to win a major for over a decade.


Alistair Brownlee

Nominated by Neil Wilson
Alistair Brownlee (right) would be a man to Ian’s liking, beating Australians at a sport they believe was invented for them.

Brownlee, at just 21, last year became the first triathlete ever to win the world senior championships after winning both junior and world under 23 titles. He won his titles while gaining a degree in physiology and sport and he continues his studies for an MSc in finance at Leeds Metropolitan University.

He has also managed to win a British vest in a second sport this winter when chosen for the European Cross-country championships.


Nominated by Ivan Speck
Tom Watson defined what every sportsman should try to be. Two months short of his 60th birthday, the eight-time Major winner battled not only golfers 30 years his junior, but also the Turnberry course. Barring a rogue bounce at the 72nd hole, Watson would have won.

His subsequent four-hole play-off defeat to Stewart Cink was awful to behold. Had he triumphed, we would have celebrated a great golfer. In defeat, we celebrated a great sportsman.

Now it’s your turn to nominate you favourite sporting star for the Ian Wooldridge award 2009. Simply email your suggestion to: