As the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards take place next month, it is time to observe the candidates who have been nominated.

Whilst most people's minds will be fixed on Formula One's youngest rookie World Champion, Lewis Hamilton and athletic Beijing Olympics swimming double gold medallist, Rebecca Adlington, the competition on the 14th December, allows the chance for other rival characters to make a formidable charge for the prize.

Mclaren Mercedes driver Hamilton remains the bookies 2-5 favourite after becoming the youngest ever Formula One World Champion at 23 years old in 2008, eclipsing Fernando Alonso's previous record of 24 in 2005.

Though Adlington's 11-4 odds ensure she is firmly in the driving seat to compete against the majority of male opponents.

Not since Zara Phillips in 2006, has a woman triumphed in the competition and with Adlington's unrivalled success in the pool this year and her charming persona displayed to the public, she may well challenge Hamilton at length.

However, fellow Olympian Chris Hoy, MBE, who achieved three gold medals at the games in China, is a main contender for the prize and his general conduct in press conferences on return to the UK endeared a nation expecting the Scot to refer vigorously to his own country, rather than Great Britain as a whole.

But Welshman Joe Calzaghe, who beat Roy Jones Jr in New York on 8th November this year, has a chance of achieving a successive Sports Personality of the Year title. The Welsh boxer is 33-1 for the title, although the prospect of him retaining his crown is minimal, as no candidate has won successive titles.

The reality remains though that any outsider could clinch one of sport's most recognised prizes and the improvement in form and character of some nominees has ensured their elevation to a greater sporting status.

One dramatic improvement from last year is Andy Murray, who plagued with injuries in 2007, which saw him withdraw from major Grand Slam tennis tournaments including Wimbledon, catapulted to fourth in the world rankings from 11th last campaign.

His performances at the US Open, where he was beaten by 13 times Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the final in straight sets, saw his limp wrist rejuvenate with some excellent forehand winners and backhand slices to perfection.

Murray's two masters titles at Madrid and Cincinnati also gained him credible plaudits from critics who were keen to remind the Scot of his precocious potential and his gruff manner on court, including former British Wimbledon semi-finalist, Tim Henman.

However the prospects of a tennis player winning the Sports Personality of the Year award also appears bleak, as no tennis player since Greg Rusedski in 1997 after his US Open final defeat to home player, Pat Rafter, has achieved victory in the award's 55 year history.

Other contenders include Olympic gold medalists, Ben Ainslie, Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton who remain with an outside chance at glory. Boxer Ricky Hatton and cricketer Kevin Pietersen, who gained national captaincy of England in place of Michael Vaughan this year are amongst the challenging pack. 

But with the Olympians' relatively unknown status and appeal in sporting echelons as yet, they will be limited in their ability to oust the top contenders for this year's trophy.

However the biggest question which remains is whether a female nominee will win or whether male domination will persist next month? Although one thing is for certain is that the British pool of sporting talent has increased to an unprecedented level.



Sports Personality of the Year