Ben Stokes ended a sensational 2019 by claiming the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year prize and promptly thanked those who had helped him through a 2018 to forget.
Stokes’ sizzling summer performances in the World Cup final and the third Ashes Test helped him seal the public vote for the prestigious award, ahead of six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and world 200 metres champion Dina Asher-Smith at Sunday’s ceremony in Aberdeen.
The 28-year-old held his nerve as England triumphed in a Super Over to win the Cricket World Cup in July, and just over a month later his glorious unbeaten 135 at Headingley won the third Ashes Test for England.
Stokes’ story is one of redemption. In 2018 he was cleared of affray charges following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September of the previous year, and on Sunday night he acknowledged the help he had received from those close to him in overcoming that low point.
“Two years ago was a tough time for me in my life. I’ve had so many people help me through that,” he said as he accepted the award on stage.
“My fantastic manager and friend Neil Fairbrother is here tonight. You are more than an agent as you get called these days. You’re an incredible human being and an incredible man.
“I literally don’t know how you’ve put up with Andrew Flintoff to start with and then me!”
Also on the six-person shortlist were Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Raheem Sterling and Alun Wyn Jones.
Stokes and his fellow World Cup winners were named Team of the Year while the moment the trophy was secured claimed the Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year award.
The England star paid tribute to his team-mates as he added: “What you have managed to achieve as individuals and what you have managed to do for your sport is seriously sensational.
“Obviously it’s an individual award but I play in a team sport and the best thing about that is you get to share special moments with team-mates, backroom staff and management who make days like we had in the summer possible.
“I’m up here receiving this award but without the efforts you put in this summer, I wouldn’t up here be doing that. So thank you so much.”
Asher-Smith’s coach John Blackie was named Coach of the Year, having worked with the world champion since she was eight at the Blackheath and Bromley Athletics Club.
Asher-Smith said: “John deserves this so much. He’s just so inspirational, so selfless and he has been working in track since before I was born.”
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson received the Lifetime Achievement award to mark a stunning sporting career.
Wheelchair racer Grey-Thompson won 11 Paralympic gold medals between 1992 and 2004 as well as six London Marathon titles. Following her retirement she has remained heavily involved in sport, working on the board of the London Marathon and the SportsAid Foundation.
The award ceremony had got off to a poignant start as former Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir was presented with the Helen Rollason award.
The 49-year-old was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2016, and he has spent the time since then working to raise awareness of the condition through his charity My Name’5 Doddie.
Weir, who won 61 caps for Scotland, said: “It’s quite ironic being a Scottish rugby player in the 90s, this is the closest I ever got to a trophy.
“The generosity and support towards my foundation has been outstanding.”
Keiren Thompson was the overall winner of the Unsung Hero prize out of a pool of 15 regional award winners.
Thompson is the founder of Helping Kids Achieve community group in Nottingham, and was presented with the award by Eliud Kipchoge, who was named World Sport Star.