Emma Raducanu will have to celebrate alone if she is voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year for 2021 after testing positive for Covid-19.
The 19-year-old, who is the hot favourite for the award after her shock US Open success in September, was always planning to be in the United Arab Emirates this weekend rather than at the BBC event at Salford’s Media City.
However, she will now be isolating in a hotel room when the ceremony takes place having tested positive in Abu Dhabi, where she was due to take part in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
Raducanu said: “I was very much looking forward to playing in front of the fans here in Abu Dhabi, but unfortunately after testing positive for COVID-19, I will have to postpone until the next opportunity.
“I’m isolating as per rules and hopefully will be able to get back soon.”
Raducanu is joined on the shortlist by heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury – who threatened to sue the BBC for including him on last year’s shortlist but is yet to comment this time – plus Olympians Tom Daley and Adam Peaty, 17-time Paralympic gold medallist Dame Sarah Storey and England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling.
One key omission is Lewis Hamilton, who missed out on a record eighth Formula One drivers’ title on Sunday to Max Verstappen.
The 36-year-old won Sports Personality for the second time last year after equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles.
Raducanu is odds-on to claim the prize after becoming the first British woman to win a grand slam title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977. She became the first qualifier ever to win a grand slam, and did so without dropping a set.
Fury was first included on the awards shortlist in 2015 after his victory over Wladimir Klitschko, but a petition was set up calling for his removal after comments he made linking homosexuality with paedophilia surfaced. He was not taken off the list, but did not finish in the top three in the public vote.
Diver Daley’s place on this year’s shortlist comes after he claimed an emotional first Olympic gold medal with Matty Lee in the synchronised 10 metres platform event before taking bronze in the individual category, 13 years after he first appeared at the Beijing Games aged 14.
Peaty also shone in the pool, becoming the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title in the 100 metres breaststroke, while cyclist Storey broke the record for most Paralympic gold medals with three more in Tokyo, having first competed in the Barcelona Games in 1992 as a swimmer.
Sterling was arguably England’s best individual performer as the team reached a first major men’s tournament final since 1966 at Euro 2020.
The awards will take place without a studio audience due to rising coronavirus infection rates and the emergence of the omicron variant, with only “essential staff and contributors” – including the nominees – now allowed to attend.