William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2018 has TWO winners in unprecedented decision

Award split for first time after judges cannot separate Tom Gregory's swimming epic A Boy in the Water and Paul D Gibson's boxing tale The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee

For the first time in its 30-year history, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award has joint winners.

Broadcaster John Inverdale told guests at a reception at BAFTA in London to announce the 2018 winner that the judges had been unable to decide between Tom Gregory’s extraordinary debut book A Boy in the Water (Particular Books) and Paul D Gibson’s boxing tale The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee (Mercier Press).

As a result, they took the unprecedented step of declaring the two books joint winners, which means the £30,000 cash prize is split equally between the two titles, with both authors receiving a £15,000 cheque.

A Boy in the Water tells the story of how Tom Gregory, now a director with the accountancy firm Deloitte, swam the English Channel on September 6, 1988 to become at the age of 11 years 336 days the youngest person to achieve the feat.

In the days before health and safety regulations, Gregory was trained by his local swimming coach in southeast London, who took him undertake open water swims in Lake Windermere, London Docks and the sea at Dover, so that he could attune his body to long exposure to the cold.

The moment 11-year-old Tom Gregory emerged from the English Channel at Dover after his record feat
The moment 11-year-old Tom Gregory emerged from
the English Channel at Dover after his record feat
When it came to setting off on a 32-mile route from the coast of France to Dover, Tom had no wetsuit, merely a bright orange rubber cap and some Adidas trunks.

With coach John Bullet encouraging him from the support boat, he sustained himself on swigs of Heinz tomato soup and the occasional chocolate biscuit.

At points along the way, he fell asleep, hallucinated, developed agonising hip and shoulder pain, and cried so much that his goggles filled with water.

However, he kept pushing himself to finish the job, securing the world record - and as an extra bonus, a coveted Blue Peter gold badge.

It is a record Tom will keep. After his incredible achievement, children under 12 – and later, under 16 – were banned from attempting to swim the Channel.

Tom Gregory now works for the  accounts firm Deloitte
Tom Gregory now works for the
accounts firm Deloitte
Journalist Gibson’s The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee, the other joint winner, explores the extraordinary highs and lows of one of Ireland’s most talented boxers, whose vices fuelled his career while also jeopardising it.

Magee is widely regarded as one of the most gifted fighters ever to emerge from Ireland. Coming from a boxing-obsessed family, he worked his way up through the amateur ranks, turning professional in 1995. In 2002, he took on Ricky Hatton in a highly-anticipated sell-out fight in Manchester. Magee lost narrowly in what Hatton’s trainer, Billy Graham, called Hatton’s toughest fight to that point.

Yet, despite becoming a world champion in 2003, drink, drugs, gambling, depression, brushes with the law – and with the IRA – all took Eamonn away from his craft. Then there was the violence: a kidnapping, a throat slashed, a bullet in the calf, a savage, leg-shattering beating.

On retiring from the ring, Eamonn turned his attention to training and overseeing his son’s boxing career, only to be met with the ultimate tragedy in 2015 when Eamonn Junior was brutally stabbed to death in West Belfast in a premeditated attack.

Eamonn Magee was one of the most gifted boxers to emerge from Ireland yet his toughest fights were outside the ring
Eamonn Magee was one of the most gifted boxers to emerge
from Ireland yet his toughest fights were outside the ring 
The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee, the fifth boxing title to win the William Hill award, is an intimate telling of a barely believable life story, filled with heartache and laughter, violence and love, unthinkable lows and fleeting, glorious highs.

It is also the first win for independent publisher Mercier Press. A Boy in the Water is the first swimming – and the third water sports – title to be successful and the first win for the Penguin Random House imprint, Particular Books.

Graham Sharpe, chair of the judges and co-founder of the award, said: “In the 30 years since launching the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, we have occasionally considered, but never ultimately awarded, a dead heat. This year, after hours of deliberation, our judging panel found it impossible to separate these two jointly deserving but very different books.

“We found Tom’s story to be captivating, entertaining and beautifully told, in just 180 brilliantly-crafted pages.

Broadcaster John Inverdale
Broadcaster John Inverdale
“Paul’s rivetingly raw account of Eamonn Magee’s life is a powerful and cautionary tale of one man’s sporting success despite himself. Astonishing and utterly gripping, we felt this was a story which attracted and repelled in equal measure but which demanded to be heard, and could not be ignored.''

Williams and Gibson attended the ceremony along with fellow his fellow shortlisted authors King Adz, Jeff Benedict, Paul Ferris, Oliver Hilmes and Ben Ryan, each of whom received a leather-bound copy of their book and a £3,000 cheque.

As well as Sharpe, the judging panel for this year’s Award comprised John Inverdale, fellow journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson, retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association Clarke Carlisle, broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney and The Times columnist and author, Alyson Rudd.

Sharpe, who has had a long career with William Hill, set up the award in 1988 alongside John Gaustad, founder of the much-missed Sportspages bookshop, who passed away in 2016.

First awarded in 1989 to True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny by Daniel Topolski and Patrick Robinson, it is now the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize.

The seven titles on the shortlist were:

Ten other titles made a longlist:



2018 Cross Sports Book of the Year Awards: all the winners are named

Brave Paralympian Martine Wright scoops Autobiography prize

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The inspiring story of the GB Paralympic athlete Martine Wright has been named Sports Autobiography of the Year at the 16th Sports Book Awards and will be a strong contender for overall Sports Book of the Year for 2018, which will be decided by a public vote.

Written in collaboration with journalist Sue Mott, Unbroken, published by Simon & Schuster, tells the remarkable story of Martine’s incredible fight back from the horrors of the July 7 atrocities in London in 2005, when she was sharing a carriage on a tube train on the Circle Line with a suicide bomber, who detonated his device just outside Aldgate station. Seven passengers around her were killed among 52 who lost their lives that day but she survived, albeit at the cost of both her legs.

Martine, who took up wheelchair tennis and sitting volleyball as part of her rehabilitation, represented Great Britain in the latter at the 2012 Paralympics.

Her story is one of trauma and tragedy but is also one of immense hope and the fortitude of the human spirit, not only in her sporting achievement but in rebuilding and even enriching her life in the years that followed.

On Twitter, Martine said she was “still in shock” at being named as the winner of the award.

She thanked family and friends for their help and support and in particular “the wonderful and very talented” Sue Mott.

She was presented with her award at the awards ceremony at Lord’s Cricket Ground by Dame Katherine Grainger, the head of a judging panel that included the author of the 2017 Autobiography of the Year, Joey Barton, plus Simon Halliday, the chairman of European Rugby, Mail on Sunday sports editor Alison Kervin and Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu.

Unbroken beat off fierce competition, with former Formula One world champion Jenson Button, Yorkshire and England cricketer Jonny Bairstow, leading tennis coach Judy Murray, footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa and 13 times Isle of Man TT champion Michael Dunlop among those whose autobiographies were shortlisted.

In the other categories, Wrecking Ball (Headline), by Saracens and England star Billy Vunipola, was awarded the London Sporting Club Rugby Book of the Year as judged by The Rugby Writers.

James Montague’s examination of football’s super rich owners The Billionaires Club (Bloomsbury) won the Coutts Football Book of the Year, judged by The Football Writers’ Association. Montague’s book triumphed over a field that included studies of past and present managerial greats Sir Matt Busby, Mauricio Pochettino and Bob Paisley.

A special award recognising Outstanding Contribution to Sports Writing was given to 92-year-old cricket writer John Woodcock, who was cricket correspondent for The Times for 35 years and edited Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack for seven years.

Tributes to Woodcock were voiced by former England captain Michael Atherton, who is the current Times cricket correspondent and a Sky broadcaster, by Channel Five cricket broadcaster and former Hampshire batsman Mark Nicholas. Another former England captain and Sky pundit, the fast bowler Bob Willis, collected the award on Woodcock’s behalf.

Over and Out (Pitch Publishing), Steve Neal’s story about Albert Trott, the Australian cricketer who was the first and, it is thought, the only player ever to have hit a ball over the top of the Lord’s Pavilion, was named The Heartaches Cricket Book of the Year, while Andy McGrath’s Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire (Bloomsbury), which was the William Hill Sports Book of the Year last November, picked up The Full Time Cover Cycling Book of the Year award.

The six-time champion jockey and three-time Derby Winner Kieren Fallon received the prize for Cross International Autobiography of the Year for Form: My Autobiography (Simon & Schuster), while Centaur (Transworld) another harrowing tale of fighting back from adversity written by Declan Murphy, the former jockey who was horrifically injured in a fall at Haydock Park in 1994, was named Right To Play General Outstanding Sports Book of the Year, with the award presented by Elise Christie, who is an ambassador for the charity, Right To Play.

The Times Biography of the Year award was given to Ali: A Life (Simon & Schuster), Jonathan Eig’s comprehensive account of arguably the greatest ever sportsman, Muhammed Ali.

The Thomson Reuters Illustrated Book of the Year went to The History Makers (Pitch Publishing), by Sarah Juggins and Richard Stainthorpe, the story of the incredible Olympic Gold medal success of the GB women’s hockey team.

Each of the nine winning titles is now put to an online public vote to determine the overall Sports Book of the Year in association with The Times.

Everyone who votes at www.sportsbookawards.com is entered into a prize draw to win £100 of National Book Tokens. The public vote is open for a week, until midday on Friday June 15, with the winner announced shortly afterwards.