Belfast Telegraph

Delighted Andy Murray first to take the triple crown at BBC's Spoty awards

By Jemma Crew

Andy Murray has become the first person to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award three times.

The 29-year-old tennis star beat 15 other contenders, including cycling's power couple Jason and Laura Kenny, Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy and Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah, to clinch the top spot.

The contest had sparked controversy here after no sports people from Northern Ireland were included in the shortlist.

Murray claimed the 2016 award after winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold and finishing the season as the world's top-ranked tennis player.

As tension built, the Duke of Cambridge and athletics champion Jessica Ennis-Hill took to the stage to announce who had got the first, second and third spots at the ceremony in Birmingham.

Receiving the award in Miami, Murray thanked his wife and his daughter "who won't know what this means yet", adding "maybe in a few years she'll appreciate it".

Speaking to the 12,000-strong audience, he stated: "I appreciate everyone's support, and congrats to all of the athletes there tonight.

"It's been an amazing year for British sport and I'm very proud to be a part of it."

However, the world number one joked he "had a bone to pick" with his wife after he said she had voted for Olympic showjumping gold medallist Nick Skelton, who came third in the public vote.

Two-time Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee came runner-up to the tennis star, who beamed as he held the trophy aloft.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon extended her congratulations to the athlete ,tweeting: "Well done, Andy Murray! BBC Sports Personality of the Year for a record third time ... and thoroughly well deserved." Fellow SNP politician Alex Salmond joined her, posting: "A huge congratulations to @andy_murray, the first man to win the @BBCSPOTY treble", while Kensington Palace tweeted that the achievement was "another milestone in an incredible sporting career".

Following the Scottish athlete's success, bookmaker Coral announced it had suspended betting on him being knighted in the New Year honours list.

Swimmer Michael Phelps got the royal seal of approval as the Duke of Cambridge presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award after capping his career with five Olympic golds in Rio.

Prince William said it was a "particular privilege" to be able to hand him the accolade, telling the swimmer: "You are one of the greatest sporting icons this world has ever had."

"And your 23 gold medals - never mind all the other colour - pales into sheer superhuman history. Hopefully your retirement gives somebody else a chance now," the Duke finished jokingly, after the crowd stood to cheer the US athlete.

The awards were at the centre of a recent row over the absence of local names on the 16-strong shortlist.

Belfast boxer Carl Frampton was among a number of high-profile omissions.

Swimmer Bethany Firth - one of the stars of the Rio Paralympics - and double world Superbike champion Jonathan Rea were also omitted.

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