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Local sport 2017 review: A year to remember for Norfolk’s Alfie Hewett

PUBLISHED: 16:33 31 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:33 31 December 2017

What a star! Alfie Hewett. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

What a star! Alfie Hewett. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

You know when you’ve made it when you got a few mentions on BBC’s sports personality of the year programme – just as wheelchair tennis star Alfie Hewett did.

Alfie Hewett celebrates another victory. Picture: Tennis FoundationAlfie Hewett celebrates another victory. Picture: Tennis Foundation

And quite rightly. The young man from Cantley has had such an outstanding year that it was not beyond the realms of possibility that his name could have appeared on the final list of nominations. That is how good his year was.

US Open men’s doubles champion with Gordon Reid

US Open men’s singles finalist

Wimbledon men’s doubles champion with Gordon Reid

Norfolk driver George Russell.Norfolk driver George Russell.

Wimbledon men’s singles semi-finalist

Silver medallist at World Team Cup

Roland Garros men’s singles champion (Alfie’s first Grand Slam singles title)

NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters winner

Iona Lake will race at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships on Sunday. Picture: PAIona Lake will race at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships on Sunday. Picture: PA

The 20-year-old former City College Norwich student ended 2017 ranked a career-high number two in the world – and the sort of success he has achieved means his face is now a familiar one, not just for tennis fans. Fortunately, he has a great sense of perspective too.

He said: “I don’t look at prize money, I don’t look at ranking or anything like that – I try to focus purely on the process and the performance stuff to win the matches not the outcome.”

Hewett is not alone in having a bright future: young George Russell looks to have made some definite moves in the world of Formula One motor racing.

The 19-year-old from west Norfolk joined Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport as a part of their junior driver programme at the start of the year. He ended it by making his F1 practice debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix, driving in free practice one for Force India and then in first practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

It was a case of it never rains but it pours for King's Lynn speedway chief Buster Chapman. Picture: Ian BurtIt was a case of it never rains but it pours for King's Lynn speedway chief Buster Chapman. Picture: Ian Burt

So what does the future hold?

“My realistic aim is to be in Formula One in 2019, though I know that won’t be at Mercedes, at least at first,” he said. “I want to be world champion one day. But it is about taking it step by step.”

Still on motorsport, and Josh Files, from Poringland, was a double TCR champion, while schoolboy Perry Cooke maintained a family tradition when he won the national junior rod championship.

On two wheels, Morello and the RAF Reserves Team both enjoyed fruitful campaigns, but motorised sport wasn’t altogether kind for Norfolk racing fans, especially those who follow King’s Lynn Stars speedway team. The Stars struggled throughout the season, but the campaign hit a low point when Stars chief Buster Chapman axed leading riders Chris Holder and Troy Batchelor after they refused to ride in a home fixture against Poole Pirates. The season was never quite the same again.

Sophie Wright - Britain's first female junior European mountain bike champion. Picture: Ian BurtSophie Wright - Britain's first female junior European mountain bike champion. Picture: Ian Burt

Still on two wheels, but without a motor – Sophie Wright, from Horsford, has had an amazing year. The 18-year-old has been named in British Cycling’s senior mountain bike squad for the first time. And it followed two bouts of surgery on her heart as well as a broken shoulder blade.

And in a double dose of good news for Norfolk cycling, Vicky Williamson has overcome career-threatening injuries to be named in the British Cycling senior team for 2017-18.

In athletics, City of Norwich AC’s Iona Lake was selected in Team England’s 75-strong team athletics squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

She will compete in the 3,000m steeplechase, while Dereham high jumper Chris Baker is also in the squad.

Athletes and their coaches who did Special Olympics Norfolk proud at the National Games. Picture: Michael LyonsAthletes and their coaches who did Special Olympics Norfolk proud at the National Games. Picture: Michael Lyons

Special Olympics Norfolk goes from strength to strength – the county team won a record total of 41 medals at the National Games.

Swaffham Golf Club’s PGA trainee Nic Cains had a memorable season, winning all the main events on the Norfolk circuit.

The youngster completed a clean sweep of the Matchplay, 36 holes Championship and Order of Merit trophies.

Further afield Bawburgh’s Andrew Marshall had a excellent season on the Middle East-based Mena Tour while King’s Lynn’s Luke Johnson finished 25th in the third tier Europro Tour’s Order of Merit.

On the amateur scene another King’s Lynn player, Jack Yule, won the Norfolk Amateur Championship at Royal West Norfolk while the ladies’ champion was rising star Amelia Williamson from Royal Cromer. The England international came out on top on her home course, beating fellow youngster Amy Taylor from Bawburgh in a tight final.

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