Ronnie O'Sullivan believes his BBC Sports Personality of the Year nomination will be a watershed moment for snooker, writes Will Jennings.
The Rocket soared to a sixth World Championship title last summer and was finally awarded a place on the six-strong shortlist after decades of snooker snubbing.
Not since seven-time Crucible king Stephen Hendry finished second in 1990 has a snooker player been nominated for the end of year prize, while six-time winner Steve Davis scooped the crown in 1988.
Lewis Hamilton won the award after claiming his seventh Formula One world title while Liverpool footballer Jordan Henderson and jockey Hollie Doyle finished second and third.
Boxer Tyson Fury and cricketer Stuart Broad were the other names on the shortlist and O’Sullivan, who will shoot for a 21st Triple Crown title at next week’s Masters, hopes his long-overdue recognition can blaze a trail for change.
“It was good to watch the show unravel, unfold and the suspense of it all,” the 45-year-old, who will face three-time UK champion Ding Junhui in the first round on Wednesday, said.
“‘Am I going to get an award or not?’ That was all quite fun. I obviously just enjoyed watching it and being part of it was good, even though I never got in the top three.
“Being part of it was good fun and all these years since a snooker player has been nominated, hopefully it’s not another however many years before another snooker player gets nominated. Hopefully it’s changed the trend and other players might get a sniff now.
“It stops people saying ‘it’s a liberty Ronnie’s not been in.’ At least that’s out of the way now and people say ‘at least I’ve got on the nominations.’ Hopefully that won’t carry on now. It was good just to be part of it.
“Hopefully it changes that perception [of snooker] where people think ‘they’ve had a snooker player in now, so why not have another snooker player in next year?’ Hopefully it allows people to see snooker as one of those sports that should be nominated.”
O’Sullivan captured hearts with a sixth Crucible crown and will bid to emulate Hamilton, 35, in claiming a seventh global title in Sheffield and equal Stephen Hendry’s record this year.
Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles at the Turkish Grand Prix and followed up his second SPOTY glory with a knighthood on the New Year’s Honours List.
Fellow nominee Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder in a Las Vegas thriller in February but demanded the BBC remove him from the shortlist as he was already the ‘people’s champion’.
They refused to budge to the world heavyweight champion and O’Sullivan, a big boxing fan, admits surprise at Fury’s failure to make the SPOTY podium.
The world No.3 added: “I wasn’t surprised Hamilton [won it]. I thought it was between [Tyson] Fury and Hamilton, really – I didn’t see past those two.
“When Hamilton got it, it was no surprise as he’s been pretty much the dominant force in Formula One for a long time now.”
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