Beth Mead stumbled into history on Wednesday night as the first female footballer to be crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Arriving at the ceremony on crutches after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament last month, the lioness hero stumbled onto the stage to collect her award after surpassing the public vote for cricket superstar Ben Stokes and Olympic champion curler Eve Muirhead.
Mead’s coronation took place at Salford’s Media City, a short walk across the canal from Old Trafford, where she scored England’s winner in their Women’s European Championship opener against Austria in July.
Beth Mead has been crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022
Mead led England to victory at Euro 2022, with the Lionesses beating Germany 2–1 in the final
That was the first of six goals the Arsenal striker scored in the tournament, as the Lionesses became the country’s first senior side to win a major trophy since Bobby Moore’s 1966 World Cup heroes.
Mead now joins Moore as one of only six footballers to win SPOTY and the first since Ryan Giggs in 2009. The other legends on the list are Paul Gascoigne (1990), Michael Owen (1998) and David Beckham (2001) .
In her acceptance speech, an emotional Mead, whose mother June is battling cancer, said, “I am incredibly honored to win this award. I got this award and I did my job, I scored a few goals, but I wouldn’t have done it without my team and I certainly wouldn’t have done it without my father, my mother and all my family.
“This is especially for women’s sport and for women’s sport that is moving in the right direction. Let’s keep pushing girls and keep doing the right things.”
Mead succeeds last year’s SPOTY Emma Raducanu, the first time since 1972 that women have won the award back-to-back. And the Lionesses scored a hat-trick in Salford as the England women were selected as Team of the Year and their manager, Sarina Weigman, was named Coach of the Year – the first woman ever to win the award.
Mead won the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament awards for her efforts at Euro 2022
She was named Player of the Tournament for her efforts, becoming the first England player to win both that award and the Golden Boot at either the European Championship or the World Cup.
These achievements are even more impressive as Mead had to recover from the crushing disappointment of being left out of the Team GB squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
Her success at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award comes as no success as she was the runaway favorite at odds of 1/80.
Mead attended the ceremony with crutches after suffering an ACL rupture in November, which cast doubt on her World Cup hopes.
Beth Mead arrived at the show on crutches after an ACL rupture and she was pictured with her partner and Arsenal teammate Vivianne Miedema who has the same injury
Mead failed to score in the European Championship final at Wembley, when Chloe Kelly went on to win extra time by beating Germany 2-1, but she was both the tournament’s top goalscorer and player.
Her striking success came just a year after the devastation of being left out of Team GB’s squad for the Tokyo Olympics, along with her mother’s illness.
In October, Mead came second in the Women’s Ballon d’Or but was always the firm favorite to finish first on Wednesday night despite Stokes’ challenge.
The all-rounder was nominated after winning England’s T20 World Cup last month and transforming the Test team after taking over as captain, with nine wins from 10 games.
Stokes only returned from Pakistan on Wednesday after completing a historic 3-0 series whitewash on Tuesday. And his wife Clare posted a photo to Instagram of him curled up on the couch under a rug, coming home with the stomach flu, though he could muster enough energy to be interviewed via video link.
Muirhead surprisingly came third after winning an elusive gold medal at her fourth Winter Olympics as she skipped the Great Britain women’s curling team to victory in Beijing in February.
The other athletes nominated were seven-time World Snooker Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, World Gymnast Champion Jessica Gadirova, who was named Young Sports Personality of the Year, and Jake Wightman, the 1500m World Champion.
US Open golf champ Matt Fitzpatrick was dropped from the shortlist, surprising even host Gary Lineker, who tweeted, “Starting rehearsals for SPOTY and saw that list of contenders doesn’t include Fitzpatrick,” complete with two embarrassed emojis.
The most emotional moment of the night came when rugby league legend Rob Burrow received the Helen Rollason Award, which recognizes extraordinary achievements in the face of adversity, and his former Leeds Rhinos captain, Kevin Sinfield, received a special award.
Since Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019, Sinfield has raised over £7 million for MND charities through three epic running challenges.
Burrow, who received a standing ovation as he took the stage in his wheelchair, said: “I am completely blown away by this award given the number of amazing people who have won it before, in particular my MND hero Doddie Weir. I don’t think I would be here today without meeting him. I will accept the award on his behalf.’
Sinfield, the New England Rugby Union defensive coach, who received his award from the late Weir’s eldest son, Hamish, said: ‘Rob is probably the most inspiring guy in the UK right now. He has inspired all of us to become better friends. As Doddie used to say, MND isn’t incurable, it’s just underfunded. We’ll keep beating the drum and doing our best.’
BBC Sports Personality of the Year award winners
SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR – Beth Mead (1st), Ben Stokes (2nd), Eve Muirhead (3rd)
COACH OF THE YEAR – Sarina Wiegman (England women’s football team)
TEAM OF THE YEAR – England women’s football team
WORLD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – Lionel Messi
YOUNG SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR – Jessica Gadirova
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Usain Bolt
HELEN ROLLASON AWARD – Rob Burrow
SPECIAL AWARD – Kevin Sinfield
UNSUNG HERO AWARD – Mike Alden (President of Parke Knowle FC, Bristol)