Mo Farah snub in Spoty award ‘really sad’, says Alistair Brownlee

Alistair Brownlee has admitted his surprise that Mo Farah yet again failed to make the top three of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday night and suggested it might be because “some people don’t see him as British”.

Brownlee said he would have voted for Farah, who came fourth in the awards despite retaining his Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m titles in style in Rio, and felt it was “really sad” that he did not get the respect his success deserved.

“For me Mo’s achievements are incredible and what stands out about them is that no one from this country has ever done them before,” Brownlee said. “There is a good chance that no one will again. It’s not like someone does it every year – it is a complete one-off in what are two very competitive, blue riband athletic events.”

Brownlee, who finished in second place behind Andy Murray on Sunday night, said he was flabbergasted that Farah had finished in the top three of Spoty only once, in 2011. “I’m not sure why he’s not in the top three,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily help if you’re not there on the night; maybe some people don’t see him as British. He trains abroad, too.

“It’s really sad, because for me he is the perfect British story. It’s what we should be about: a person who comes to Britain as a young man, as a refugee, and an ex‑schoolteacher identifies something that he’s brilliant at and he represents Britain as the best in the world. I think that’s a fantastic British story.”

Farah’s case was also supported by the 58-year-old showjumper Nick Skelton, another gold medallist in Rio, who finished third on Sunday night. “I think I would have voted for Mo,” he said. “What he’s done is amazing, hard work and flogging his body. To win all those double golds he’s a worthy winner of it.”

Meanwhile Murray has conceded it will be hard to maintain his level of tennis after a brilliant 2016, during which he won Wimbledon, Olympic gold and reached the world No1 spot for the first time. “It’s possible that everything doesn’t go perfectly next year,” he said.

“I need to be able to deal with that. I know that to stay at the top and keep winning big titles, it’s a really difficult thing to do. I’m trying to prepare myself for that mentally a little bit just now.

“Between my last grand slam and now must be nearly four years or something so I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m expecting it to be really hard and that’s why I need to keep improving, working hard and finding ways to make my game better.”

Murray said he would have voted for Brownlee, adding that the Yorkshireman deserved the award for winning gold in Rio and then helping his brother Jonny cross the line in a world triathlon series race in Mexico while he was suffering from heatstroke. “What he did early in the year was an amazing achievement anyway,” the Scot said. “But what he did with his brother gave a really important message. It showed that sport is not only about winning. I think sometimes that gets lost.

“Everyone has to win all of the time but there’s always losers as well. Especially at the end of such a difficult and physically challenging, brutal competition that they are in, for him to slow down and help his brother over the line was a really important thing to do. It was great to see.”

Michael Phelps, who won the Sport Personality lifetime achievement award on Sunday, said he had been impressed by Britain’s 100m breaststroke Olympic champion Adam Peaty – and particularly his world-record performance in Rio.

“I am really happy I was not racing against him, given he had such a dominant performance as he had,” Phelps said. “I said to Ian Thorpe that Peaty swam a 56.4 or 56.5 whatever it was – that is one of the grossest swims I have ever seen.