We ranked the strongest Sports Personality of the Year top threes since 2000 so you don't have to

The 2016 Sports Personality of the Year contenders will be announced soon and, with the Rio Olympic Games headlining, it's sure to be an impressive list of nominees.

But what of years gone by? We've taken a look at what we believe to be the strongest top threes since the turn of the millennium.

Fifth place - 2014

1: Lewis Hamilton 2: Rory McIlroy 3: Jo Pavey

Jo Pavey, Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy - (David Davies/PA)
(David Davies/PA)

Not a bad year by any stretch for Brits in sport. The year 2014 saw Lewis Hamilton crowned the Sports Personality of the Year having secured his second Formula One World Championship, with 11 race wins.

The favourite to win was Rory McIlroy, who could only manage second place having won the final two golf majors of the year: The Open and the PGA Championship.

And in third was the year's feel-good story, Jo Pavey, who secured her first major championship win at the age of 40, taking gold at the European Championships in Zurich. Pavey became the oldest female to win a gold medal in the meeting's history as a result.

Fourth place - 2008

1: Sir Chris Hoy 2: Lewis Hamilton 3: Rebecca Adlington

Lewis Hamilton, Rebecca Adlington and Sir Chris Hoy - (David Davies/PA)
(David Davies/PA)

The 2008 vintage is strengthened by its Olympic pedigree, with the Beijing Games beginning a sequence of improvement that would see Team GB smash targets at London 2012 and come second in the medal table at Rio 2016.

Sir Chris Hoy took the big prize, having being carried to gold medals in the men's keirin, men's team sprint and men's individual sprint by his famously enormous thighs.

Lewis Hamilton trailed in second place in scenes unfamiliar to a man who won his first Formula One World Championship that year, while Rebecca Adlington came third, having become the first British Olympian to hold two swimming golds since 1908.

Third place - 2003

1: Jonny Wilkinson 2: Martin Johnson 3: Paula Radcliffe

England's Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning points in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final - (David Davies/PA)
(David Davies/PA)

A world cup-winning year had to feature high up the list and England's Rugby World Cup triumph of 2003 is no exception.

Jonny Wilkinson took his place in the pantheon of greats with his winning drop kick in the final, while Martin Johnson's captaincy earned him second spot.

Paula Radcliffe snatched third after she set the women's marathon record, at two hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds, and the world record for the women's road 10k at 30 minutes and 21 seconds. Outrageous.

Second place - 2005

1: Andrew Flintoff 2: Dame Ellen MacArthur 3: Steven Gerrard

England's Andrew Flintoff during the 2005 Ashes series - (Matt Dunham/AP)
(Matt Dunham/AP)

Now we're getting into legendary territory - 2005 was a special year across many sports, with Andrew Flintoff leading the way as England won their first Ashes series in 18 years thanks to Flintoff's 402 runs and 24 wickets.

Second place went to Dame Ellen MacArthur, who broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. No big deal.

And third went to Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard, who led the Anfield side's recovery from 3-0 down against AC Milan in the Champions League final to triumph on penalties in one of the greatest football comebacks of all time.

First place - 2012

1: Sir Bradley Wiggins 2: Jessica Ennis 3: Andy Murray

Sue Barker chats to Bradley Wiggins - (David Davies/PA)
(David Davies/PA)

The year 2012 was arguably the greatest in British sporting history - Andy Murray's first major title, the first British Tour de France winner, Chelsea's Champions League title, Europe's Ryder Cup triumph, England beating New Zealand at Twickenham, England's cricketers winning a series in India for the first time in 28 years and, of course, the Olympic extravaganza - the case is very strong.

Sir Bradley Wiggins won first place, winning the Tour de France before taking gold in the Olympic time trial, prompting unforgettable scenes of Wiggo conducting the crowd from a throne. It was lovely.

Second place went to the supremely talented Jessica Ennis, who won gold in the heptathlon on Super Saturday, Britain's finest hour on the track.

And third place went to Murray, who didn't do too badly, becoming the first British man to win a Grand Slam tennis singles title since 1936, as well as earning Olympic Gold in London. Not bad.

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