Team GB's Rio 2016 stars dominate SPOTY shortlist

With 2017 just round the corner, it is time to reflect on a golden year for Team GB – with medals galore and unprecedented success.

On December 18, our athletes will be out in force at Birmingham’s Genting Arena for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, celebrating an outstanding 12 months after Team GB finished second in the medal table – behind only USA.

With so many success stories and so many moments which captured the public’s imagination, it is no surprise that many of our stars have been nominated for the main prize.

So let’s wind back the tape and discover why our 11 athletes have shortlisted. They will be competing against a further five nominees in Sophie Christiansen, Kadeena Cox, Dame Sarah Storey, Gareth Bale and Jamie Vardy.

The Brownlee brothers dominate the men’s triathlon and it continued in Rio, as Alistair retained his Olympic title from London – leading home brother Jonny.

The pair were in a class of their own, and in the final sprint Alistair moved out ahead and controlled the race to the end. He would catch the headlines again in September as he gave up the chance of winning the World Triathlon Series Final to help his brother, who was suffering from heat exhaustion, over the line.

It was a golden year for reigning BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner Andy Murray who reached new heights with every passing tournament, ending the season as the best player in the world.

In February, Murray became a father for the first time, while his Wimbledon victory in July sparked a special four months on court.

In Rio, he kept the crowd on edge night after night with a series of marathon matches he refused to lose, edging each epic contest on his way to gold. That coming after he was chosen as the Team GB's flag bearer for the opening ceremony.

Since then, he was largely unbeatable and his win at the ATP World Tour Finals this month cemented his status as the world number one.

There is always a nervous wait for the first gold medal of any Games, but in 2016 there really was no need to panic.

Adam Peaty was the red-hot favourite for the men’s 100m breaststroke when he touched down in Rio, and he immediately showed why by breaking the world record in the heats.

The 21-year-old was never threatened and he showed how dominant he is by easing to gold on day three to get the ball rolling. This all came after he picked up no fewer than four titles at the European Championships in London.

Danny Willett went into the 2016 Masters with a best major finish of sixth in the 2015 Open Championship, but no-one was talking about him when he drove down Magnolia Lane on Thursday morning.

Four days later he had won his maiden major, just days after becoming a father for the first time.

He only made it to Augusta after wife Nicole gave birth to Zachariah just a week before the tournament.

Willett, 29, went on to represent Team GB in Rio, finishing tied for 37th with America’s Rickie Fowler, 16 shots behind teammate, and winner, Justin Rose.

Jason Kenny’s private life may have dominated headlines in recent months, but the cyclist equalled the great Sir Chris Hoy with six Olympic golds this summer – and there could be more to come.

In Rio, Kenny started things off with team sprint gold in a new Olympic record, before he held off team-mate Callum Skinner to win the individual sprint gold days later.

But the men’s keirin final was as dramatic as any other race at Rio 2016 as Kenny went close to disqualification before roaring round the outside to send the velodrome wild.

After leading her side to bronze in London four years earlier, captain Kate Richardson-Walsh was at the helm in Rio as Team GB women's hockey team created history by winning a first-ever Olympic gold medal. That came after a dramatic penalty shootout win over the Netherlands as the women's hockey team captured the hearts of the nation. The four-time Olympian's time in Rio then got even better as she was selected as Team GB's flagbearer for the closing ceremony.

One half of cycling’s power couple, along with husband Jason, Laura Kenny became Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian ever as she won two more golds in Rio – taking her tally to four.

The 24-year-old defended both her omnium and team pursuit titles from London, completing the latter in style to win by 24 points. That was not her only success in 2016 with scratch and omnium gold, plus team pursuit bronze, at the World Championships in London in March.

Max Whitlock made history on one of the most dramatic nights in British sporting history in Rio, as he won two individual Olympic gold medals.

Team GB had not won a gymnastics gold in their history but Whitlock rewrote the record books as he won the men’s floor title.

And hours later he was back on his favoured apparatus, the pommel horse, holding off compatriot Louis Smith to round off a triumphant day.

Mo Farah became one of the greats of athletics as he repeated his memorable double-gold from London 2012 – and with extra drama thrown in for good measure.

The 33-year-old fell during the 10,000m final before clambering back to his feet, shaking off the pain and destroying the rest of the field through sheer will and determination.

And a week later he returned to defend his 5000m crown as he battled through a fast race to win by less than a second.

One of the more emotional moments of the Olympics was seeing 58-year-old Nick Skelton on the podium after he won show jumping gold.

Skelton has been competing since 1975 and all his hard work finally came off in style with a flawless round on Big Star to add an individual gold to the team show jumping he won in London 2012.

Nicola Adams is a pioneering figure in women’s boxing and she entered the Olympics with pressure on her shoulders after winning in London.

But, like Jade Jones and Laura Kenny, she defended her title superbly with victory in the women’s flyweight final against France’s Sarah Ourahmoune.

The 33-year-old won Britain’s only boxing gold in Rio, while she became the most accomplished amateur boxer Britain has ever had.

Sportsbeat 2016