THE inclusion of five women in the 12-strong short-list for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award is a welcome improvement on their total absence 12 months ago.
Restructuring of the nomination procedure means the process no longer reflects the views of lads' mags. Half of the 12-strong nomination panel is now female. Yet there still seems little prospect of a woman winning, if we believe the betting industry.
Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams, Katherine Grainger, Ellie Simmonds and Sarah Storey are nominated, having won gold this year, but even Olympic heptathlon champion Ennis, poster girl for London 2012, is only fourth favourite.
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Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins is the shortest-priced candidate ever, at 2-5, followed by Mo Farah at 5-1 and Andy Murray at 10-1. The holder, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, who surpassed Sir Steve Redgrave as Britain's most prolfic gold medallist, is 200-1, while oarswoman Katherine Grainger, the third Scot listed, is 250-1.
While we don't subscribe to a touted view that Wiggins's Tour success was the greatest British sporting feat ever, I can't see past him and believe this will be reflected in the public vote ahead of Sunday's ceremony.
It's encouraging to note genuine diversity. This award was 40 years old before we had a black winner, in Linford Christie. There has still never been a disabled one.
There are two black athletes and three Paralympians this year, but it's disappointing that not one of the five female nominees or Paralympians gets the bookies' vote as a podium contender.
David Weir and Sarah Story each won four Paralympic golds – more than any GB Olympian in London, yet Weir is fifth (40-1) and Storey last in the betting, a 300-1 outsider.
Storey has contested five Paralympics, winning 22 medals in swimming and cycling, 11 of them gold. She has also won UK titles in mainstream cycling and competed for England in the Commonwealth Games. She lost the use of her left hand due to a birth injury.
In terms of achievement, Storey is surely the greatest athlete of the year. Can we really claim she is not being discriminated against – even doubly so, as a woman and for being disabled? Only one of the 12 nominees did not compete in London 2012: world golf No.1 Rory McIlroy, a 200-1 outsider. The quality of those who failed to make the nominee list tells as much about the strength of the class of 2012 as those on it.
Omissions include Olympic and Paralympic champions by the dozen, like double gold medallists Laura Trott (cycling) and Charlotte Dujardin (equestrianism), triple Paralympic equestrian champion Sophie Christiansen, Scottish gold medallists Scott Brash (showjumping) and Tim Baillie (canoe slalom), Alistair Brownlee (triathlon), Greg Rutherford (long jump), and Victoria Pendleton (cycling).
Nor is there any mention of Coatbridge's Ricky Burns, who twice retained the WBO world lightweight title this year, or of Carl Froch, who won the IBF super middleweight crown. Or F1's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter.
This paper may fairly claim to have been in the forefront of promoting and projecting women in sport, yet they remain marginalised. Only 13 women have won the SPOTY award in 58 years, including the half share for Jayne Torvill in 1984. Paula Radcliffe, Kelly Holmes and Zara Phillips are the most recent women to win, over five years from 2002. Yet Radcliffe was the first woman since Dundee's Liz McColgan (or Liz Lynch as she now prefers to be known) in 1991. Those 13 winners apart, only 24 women rated a mention in the top three. That's 37 women out of 174 podium places in 58 years.
It would be a far from ideal solution, but if women continue to be denied, then the BBC should consider nominating a winner from each sex – and then an overall winner. This would heighten the drama and promote fairness.
But savour Sunday night. We may never see their likes again.
We note that there is as yet no job at UK Athletics for Ennis's coach, Tony Minichiello. He refuses to move to the high performance centre at Loughborough (as does Ennis). He also doesn't coach a raft of other athletes, which UKA want.
Minichiello had the temerity to prove departing head coach Charles Van Commenee wrong. The Dutchman once thought Ennis was too small to make it. Minichiello now faces having to accept a consultancy role and pay cut.
Michael Afalaka, who transformed Adam Gemili from a footballer to world junior 100m champion inside a year, is being made redundant. Gemili missed the Olympic 100m final when third, 0.04sec in his semi behind Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay.
Others such as Lloyd Cowan, coach of Olympic silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu, also face an uncertain future in the coaching shake-up orchestrated by Van Commenee's successor, Neil Black.
If Black fails, he's on a hiding to nothing.