Indies Pitch Publishing and Floodlit Dreams are among the publishers featuring on this year's five-strong William Hill Sports Book of the Year shortlist.
The list sees books about cricket, Muay Thai, mountaineering and athletics compete for the £30,000 prize, which this year saw a record 152 entries.
Shortlisted are Born Fighter by Ruqsana Begum (Simon & Schuster), The World Beneath Their Feet by Scott Ellsworth (John Murray Press), The Unforgiven by Ashley Gray (Pitch Publishing), The Breath of Sadness: On Love, Grief & Cricket by Ian Ridley (Floodlit Dreams) and The Rodchenkov Affair by Grigory Rodchenkov (W H Allen).
Begum’s Born Fighter is an account of how she rose to become Muay Thai world champion, fighting in secret from a young age as she navigated life as a young Muslim woman in Bethnal Green. Ellsworth’s title The World Beneath Their Feet tells the story of the "race to the top of the world", charting the competition between British, American and German powers to reach the top of Mount Everest.
Ridley's book is described as "a poignant account of living with grief following the loss of his beloved wife Vikki Orvice, herself a legendary sportswriter and one of the first female football reporters". His book tells the tale of his journey back to county cricket as a way to cope with his loss.
Continuing the cricket theme is Gray’s investigation that explores the aftermath of the rebel tours of Apartheid South Africa by West Indian cricketers who "saw it as a way to escape poverty, but were instead cast out and condemned by the international cricketing fraternity". Gray’s book examines the "irony that saw them accused of pocketing 'blood money' to prop up a regime that discriminated against people of their colour".
Completing the shortlist is the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory Rodchenkov, who has been in hiding since his participation in Bryan Fogel’s documentary "Icarus", in which he revealed the true extent of the Russian doping scandal. Rodchenkov’s memoir follows his childhood growing up under the Iron Curtain, charting his career with the Soviet Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Centre in 2015.
Judging were chair Alyson Rudd, retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association Clarke Carlisle, five-time Olympic medallist and rower Dame Katherine Grainger, broadcaster and writer John Inverdale, broadcaster Danny Kelly, and journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson.
Commenting on the line-up, Rudd said: “This year's shortlist is dazzling and proves how wide the range is in sports writing. There is revelation and pathos, investigation and confession, grief and devotion. The writing is by turns beautiful, poetic, riveting and clever. Pleasingly, more books either written by or about women were submitted for this year's award and the judging process promises to be particularly passionate and lively."
The winning author will be announced on Thursday 3rd December and will receive the cash prize and a trophy. Shortlisted authors will each receive £3,000 and a leather-bound copy of their book. Previous winners include Nick Hornby, Brian Moore, Marcus Trescothick, and two-time winner Donald McRae.
Organisers intend to host an afternoon awards ceremony at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and are currently monitoring government guidance regarding Covid-19 restrictions.
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