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Sir Tony McCoy thought knighthood message was "some kind of hoax"

Published 31/12/2015

Tony McCoy's knighthood headlined the sporting section of the New Years Honours list
Tony McCoy's knighthood headlined the sporting section of the New Years Honours list

Sir Tony McCoy thought he was the victim of a practical joke when he first received news of his knighthood in the New Year Honours list.

The 41-year-old former jockey officially retired at the end of April when he brought the curtain down on a spectacular 23-year National Hunt career.

He is only the second jockey in history to have been awarded a knighthood, with Sir Gordon Richards the first in 1953. He heads a list of high-profile sporting names to be honoured which also includes five-time world snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome and two members of the England women's World Cup squad - captain Steph Houghton and team-mate Fara Williams.

McCoy, though, admitted a sense of incredulity when he gained notification of the honour for services to horse racing.

He told the Times: "It was a couple of weeks ago I got the news.

"I was just about to go into a charity event, in London, and quickly browsing through my emails - and there was this message from the Home Office.

"I read it again. And then I read it again. Even then, I was wondering whether it might be some kind of hoax.

"They had asked me to call this number, and I was wondering which practical joker would be on the line. To be considered worthy of the same recognition as Sir Gordon is something that is going to take a long time to sink in."

McCoy counted 31 Cheltenham Festival winners, as well as two Gold Cups and one famous Grand National success, among his big-race haul.

He was also crowned champion jockey for 20 consecutive seasons, with the trophy decommissioned and awarded to him permanently at the end of the last campaign

Snooker star O'Sullivan had said in 2014 he was not interested in this kind of award, telling Eurosport: "I don't feel like I've achieved anything to warrant an MBE."

However, he has been awarded an OBE for services to snooker and has had a change of heart.

The 40-year-old said: "I am extremely grateful for this recognition which is a great honour and has made both myself and my family very proud.

"It came as a great surprise to receive my OBE and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my family, friends and fans who have supported me throughout my career and made this achievement possible."

Froome said he was "extremely humbled and proud" to also be made an OBE after he became the first Briton to win cycling's premier road race the Tour de France on two occasions with his victory in July. British Cycling president Bob Howden has also been awarded an OBE.

Manchester City centre-back Houghton - who led England to a popular third-place finish in this summer's World Cup - said the MBEs for herself and midfielder Williams recognised the growing prominence of women's football.

Houghton said: "I am delighted and surprised to receive an MBE and it is a massive step in the right direction to see that we are being recognised both at country and club level.

"I would never have thought of receiving an MBE in a million years because my main aim is just to play as well as you can for your team and your country, and everything else comes as a bonus."

Football Association director Heather Rabbatts - who became the FA's first female board member in 2012 - has been made a dame for services to football and equality. Sports broadcasters Sue Barker and Jacqui Oatley have been awarded an OBE and an MBE respectively.

Tracey Neville, the coach of England's women's netball team, was awarded an MBE. She is the sister of former England football internationals Gary and Phil Neville.

Former England and Sale rugby union wing Mark Cueto and IBF super-bantamweight boxing champion Carl Frampton were also awarded MBEs.

Manchester United and Scotland great Denis Law and Manchester City's former forward Francis Lee, who was later a chairman of the club, each receive the CBE for services to football and charity.

John Surtees also receives the CBE for services to motorsport. The 81-year-old won seven world motorcycling championships before switching to four wheels and winning the 1964 Formula One title.

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