England Rugby Union
England won few matches and even fewer friends at their home World Cup last autumn, failing to get out of the group stages of the competition in humiliating fashion in front of an expectant public.
That disappointment was, though, consigned to history during a remarkable 2016. The country’s new Australian coach, Eddie Jones, faced a mountainous task to win over the public but a first Grand Slam since 2013 wasn’t a bad way to start. A decisive victory in Paris over France set-up England’s triumph as Dylan Hartley’s men put a horrendous 2015 behind them in effortless style.
Things got even better on their tour of Australia as England stunned the hosts to win the series 3-0 – a result which stands out as one of the most outstanding in the history of the national side.
From a national disgrace to a team that is, most certainly, going places, Jones’ side can now look to the future with a young side brimming with aggressive intent with the expectation that things can even get better.
They say that fairytales no longer happen in a football era dominated by high salaries and TV’s billions. Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City side were the ultimate proof this doesn’t have to be the case.
A great start to the season set them on their way and once they were out in front no-one could catch them, despite most voicing the opinion that this dream would almost certainly end before the season was out.
Gary Lineker said he would present Match of the Day in his pants if his former club ultimately won the title. That he sat there in August in nothing but his smalls was perhaps the crowning glory of a story that will be told for the next 100 years.
Bookmakers certainly hope it was a one-off, with some being forced to make eye-watering payouts to punters who had backed the Foxes at 5000-1 at the start of the season.
Whether it is repeated remains to be seen but Leicester had a nation dreaming. And the public loved them for it.
Team GB and Paralympics GB
These teams inspired the whole nation with the greatest combined team performance in British sporting history. After the record-breaking success of the London Games, not even the most ardent supporter dared to believe our Olympians and Paralympians could match the achievements of 2012.
But in the heat of Rio, Team GB more than matched them - they surpassed them in a 16-day celebration of sport that saw records smashed, new heroes created and new standards set.
In the pool, in the velodrome, on the track, the rowing lagoon, the boxing ring and the ocean off Copacabana beach, British athletes took on the best in the world, and won, again and again. The final medal table saw the team finish second above China with 67 medals, including 27 golds, two more than in London. Beyond the numbers, were countless inspirational stories of triumph over adversity, or a dedicated grassroots coach, or parents who made a sacrifice to support their child’s sporting dream.
It was a similarly stunning tale in the Paralympics in September with Great Britain once again illustrating its credentials as one of the world’s great sporting powerhouses. Paralympics GB won a staggering 147 medals in Rio, again putting them in second place in the overall medal table.
Our winners will be announced at our ceremony on 7th December hosted by Ben Shephard.