First female SPOTY winner, swimmer Anita Lonsbrough, says 'I didn't prepare a speech because I thought someone else had one'

Swimmer Anita Lonsbrough won three gold medals at the 1962 Commonwealth Games (PA Images)
12:34pm, Thu 12 Dec 2019
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The first woman to ever win Sports Personality of the Year, Anita Lonsbrough, has said she didn't prepare a speech at the time as she didn't believe she would win.

The swimmer won the accolade in 1962, the year she won three European Championship medals and four British Empire and Commonwealth games medals - three of which were gold.

SPOTY was introduced in 1954 and no woman had won the award in eight years, despite this fact Lonsbrough thought she had lost to a woman.

The now 78-year-old said: “The BBC thought I knew I had won so were trying to drop hints.

“But I thought (sprinter) Dorothy Hyman had won. They got the top three together and told us to think about a small speech. I thought I haven’t won so I didn’t bother thinking of anything to say.”

Lonsborough, then 21, said it was 'extra special' to win the award. The former athlete added: “I was absolutely delighted. To become the first woman - it is a special thing. I competed in sport obviously to do well for my friends and family who had supported me during my career. 

"Then suddenly you find that it means something to other people. That means it’s extra special to you.”

The swimmer may have won in 1962 but it took until 2004 for her to receive the trophy - she was only given a plaque at the time.

Her husband, former cyclist and commentator Hugh Porter, worked for the BBC during the Athens Olympics and tracked down the trophy which he presented to her on Christmas morning.

Anita Lonsbrough with her husband Hugh Porter who is a former cyclist (Twitter: Great Big Thankyou)

Since Lonsbrough won SPOTY there have only been 12 other women who have received the award. The former journalist says that she believes the reason as to why not many women have won is because people are more likely to vote for a man as they are in the mainstream.

Lonsbrough said: "I think until recently there were more men’s sports, there weren’t women footballers, women rugby players for example.

"A lot of the past winners tend to be ones with the biggest audience and supporters. I hope it’s been done on merit. A lot of people, I don’t know, maybe vote for a man rather than a woman."

This year's SPOTY comes from Aberdeen and will be shown on BBC1 this Sunday from 7pm.