Beth Mead has been crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2022 after firing England to a history-making European Championship.
The 27-year-old saw off competition from Ben Stokes and Ronnie O’Sullivan to win the prize, hobbling on to the stage at MediaCity in Salford to collect the award after seriously injuring her knee last month.
Mead said she was “speechless for once” and held back tears as she thanked her mother, who is receiving treatment for cancer, and received a standing ovation from the sporting stars in the crowd.
Mead said: “I certainly wouldn’t have done this without my dad, my mum, and all my family. Most of all this is for women’s sport and for women’s sport heading in the right direction. Let’s keep pushing girls and doing the right things.”
Mead had been the overwhelming favourite after her six goals and five assists, the best in the tournament, helped the Lionesses to a Wembley final where they defeated the eight-times champions Germany to secure their first major trophy – and England’s first since 1966.
The prize completed a clean sweep for England women at the 69th Sports Personality of the Year awards. They also won team of the year and coach of the year for Sarina Wiegman – the first woman to take the accolade in its 23-year history.
It is the first time in half a century that the top prize has been won by women in consecutive years, following Emma Raducanu’s triumph in 2021. The last time it happened a 21-year-old Princess Anne took the prize for winning eventing gold in 1971, followed a year later by pentathlete Mary Peters.
But it is also bittersweet victory for Mead, who ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Arsenal last month – an injury that almost certainly rules her out of next year’s World Cup – and her mother’s struggle with cancer.
Mead hinted at her personal difficulties in an interview with Alex Scott earlier in the night when asked how her Lioness teammates had helped her overcome the problems, watched from the audience by her father and brother.
“The girls are like a family away from home and when things at home haven’t been great, they supported me so well,” she said, appearing briefly emotional.
The striker, whose mother briefly tried to encourage her to take up ballet before realising her daughter was a much better footballer, said: “I am still pinching myself. I still think I need time to reflect and look back at this year and what has happened. But I am so grateful and proud of what I have done and what my team have done.”
Asked whether she had any advice for any potential future Lionesses inspired to take up the game this year, Mead said she played her best football: “when I was playing for the love of the six-year-old that started. So I would say enjoy every moment and don’t forget the reason why you are playing football.”
Seven of Mead’s Lioness teammates collected the award for team of the year in a ceremony presented by Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan, Alex Scott and Clare Balding.
Jill Scott, fresh from being crowned queen of the jungle in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, said she hoped the team’s triumph had inspired plenty of girls to ask for football boots this Christmas “and it will be classed as normal” as she accepted their award.
Stokes, who came runner-up, could have laid strong claim to the coveted ward, had it not been for Mead’s golden year. Stokes struck England to T20 World Cup glory and took over as Test captain in April – a first year capped with England’s first away test series win in Pakistan in 22 years.
Eve Muirhead, who won Olympic Gold as women’s curling skip at the Beijing winter games, came third in the competition, which is decided by a live public vote from a shortlist selected by a panel of experts.