It’s hard to think of a bigger personality in British sport than Ronnie O’Sullivan. The six-time world snooker champion has enjoyed a career decorated success — nearly three decades of consistent success at the top of the game.
The latest proof of O’Sullivan’s enduring talent was his 2020 World Snooker Championship triumph. While many had said he did not have another world title in him, ‘the Rocket’ proved them all wrong and earned a sixth crown at the famous Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
It was no surprise, then, that O’Sullivan was nominated for the 2020 Sports Personality of the Year award. He was finally considered among the favourites to land the top prize, having been overlooked for all of his career. Fans of snooker felt that it was about time the UK’s greatest ever player got his hands on the coveted accolade.
Once again though, O’Sullivan was overlooked as Lewis Hamilton scooped the award. He couldn’t even muster a second or third-place finish, with Jordan Henderson and jockey Hollie Doyle pipping him to the top three.
It was another that got away for the Essex-born cueist, and despite proving his legendary status in British sport, O’Sullivan was left to wonder whether he would ever be in such a position to win the award again.
Indeed, as that time of year comes around, and people begin to analyse the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021 winner odds, O’Sullivan’s name is pretty far down the list of potential contenders.
He is yet to win another ranking title since he lifted the World Championship trophy in August 2020, reaching five major finals last season and losing them all — at once a sign of his enduring class and perhaps the gradual waning of his powers.
It’s difficult to say that O’Sullivan is no longer the player he once was. After all, it takes a tremendous amount of quality to reach five finals in a single season, and on more than one occasion he was unfortunate to come up against an opponent playing out of their skin.
There is also the fact that the big Chinese tournaments, where O’Sullivan usually enjoys a lot of success, have not been able to take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Even still, it feels as though O’Sullivan will never get a better chance to win the Sports Personality of the Year award than last year. His victory in the World Championship was hugely impressive and was more than deserving of landing the prestigious honour.
Alas, it seems as though snooker’s most entertaining talent will never be recognised as far as that particular award is concerned.
It’s fair to say that the 45-year-old has courted controversy over the years, making headlines for his behaviour on and off the table, which at times has led to fines, but that is part of what makes O’Sullivan one of sport’s more enigmatic figures, and why he is worthy of getting his hands on an award that recognises the most unique sporting talented that the country has produced.
To be considered once again in future years, O’Sullivan will need to somehow exceed what he achieved in 2020. If he could win a seventh world title and equal Stephen Hendry’s record, then he would surely land the accolade.
For now though, snooker fans are left pondering what might have been.