“Hidden souls” of sporting legends revealed in “a magnificent seven” competing for the 28th bookie prize
The shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award – the world’s richest and longest-running prize for sports writing – has today (Tuesday, 18 October) been announced.
While six sports are covered in the seven-strong shortlist, the majority of titles dig deep into their subjects’ psyches to reveal the inner sportsman or sportswoman, showing how their strengths and weaknesses helped and hindered them in the pursuit of their dreams. This is demonstrated in two memoirs set mainly amongst the waves: Barbarian Days by journalist William Finnegan and Find a Way by swimmer Diana Nyad. The elegiac Barbarian Days, surfing’s first appearance in the Bookie Prize and already a Pulitzer Prize-winner, tells the story of a restless young man whose sport both anchors him and takes him around the world as he becomes an adult. Diana Nyad’s inspirational memoir is a testimony to the indomitability of the human spirit: a world class swimmer at a very young age, Nyad first attempted to swim the 100 miles between Havana, Cuba and the coast of Florida without a shark cage aged 28. She finally became the first person to complete the treacherous crossing over three decades later, aged 64.
Oliver Kay’s Forever Young investigates the short life of eccentric football prodigy Adrian Doherty, who was offered a five-year contract with Manchester United on his 17th birthday, yet died in mysterious circumstances having never realised his true potential. Controversial cricketer, writer and broadcaster Peter Roebuck, another figure who died before his time, has his unpredictable character and sudden death examined in Tim Lane and Elliott Cartledge’s Chasing Shadows.
Rick Broadbent receives his third shortlisting for the Prize for Endurance, which looks at the life of Olympic track legend Emil Zátopek. The greatest runner of his generation, Zátopek’s character was sorely tested as he fell from favour with his country’s Communist rulers, suffering countless indignities before coming in from the cold following Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution.
Rounding off this year’s shortlist: Rory Smith’s Mister, which looks at how English football managers helped the ‘beautiful game’ become the global sport it is today; and Christopher McGrath’s Mr Darley’s Arabian, which tells the story of horse racing by following the bloodline of twenty-five thoroughbreds, from a colt bought from Bedouin tribesmen over 300 years ago, to the modern champion, Frankel.
The seven titles in the running to be crowned the winner of the £28,000 prize are as follows (alphabetically by author surname):
- Endurance: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Emil Zátopek by Rick Broadbent (Wisden)
- Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair)
- Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football’s Lost Genius by Oliver Kay (Quercus)
- Chasing Shadows: The Life & Death of Peter Roebuck by Tim Lane and Elliot Cartledge (Hardie Grant Books)
- Mr Darley’s Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life – A History of Racing in 25 Horses by Christopher McGrath (John Murray)
- Find a Way: One Untamed and Courageous Life by Diana Nyad (Macmillan)
- Mister: The Men Who Taught the World How to Beat England at Their Own Game by Rory Smith (Simon & Schuster)
William Hill spokesman, Chair and co-founder of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said:
“From an incredibly strong longlist a ‘Magnificent Seven’ of sporting books go forward, but from here on in the race is wide open. What is striking in this year’s selection is how the authors uncover the inner sportsman and sportswoman, revealing their hidden souls and proving that they are not just great athletes but also complex, driven people. These are brilliant, revelatory stories that our panel of experts will have a tough time judging.”
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world’s longest established and most valuable sports writing prize. As well as a £28,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, and a day at the races.
The judging panel for this year’s Award consists of: journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson; retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and The Times columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chair of Judges is Graham Sharpe, co-creator of the Award alongside John Gaustad, founder of the Sportspages bookshop, who retired following the 2015 Award and passed away earlier this year.
The winner will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA, in central London, on Thursday 24 November.
For further information, please contact Anwen Hooson, Jon Howells or Laura Curtis at
Riot Communications on 020 3174 0118