2017 Norfolk Sports awards: A celebration of our county’s finest sporting stars
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The region's exceptional sporting achievers were celebrated at this year's Norfolk Sports Awards. Jacob Massey reports
A sell-out crowd of 350 people gathered at OPEN Norwich on Tuesday night to celebrate the sporting accomplishments of the county's talented, determined and selfless.
'The nominations seem to get stronger and stronger every year,' said host Dave Taylor as he took to the stage alongside fellow Heart Radio breakfast presenter Heidi Secker - and it is hard to argue with him.
This year's winners were the cream of more than 340 nominations from across Norfolk, which were whittled down to a shortlist of three candidates in each of the 11 categories.
The winner of the Power of Physical Activity award, Costas Eleftheriades, also claimed the Winner of Winners award on the night, having raised thousands of pounds for charity by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and completing the Great North Run in the wake of his son's death.
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The Sports Personality of the Year award was put to a public vote for the first time this year, and with more than 2,000 votes cast, triathlete Kimberley Morrison was crowned the winner at the fourth time of asking, having been shortlistedfor the last three years.
Ben Jones, director of Active Norfolk, said: 'The calibre of nominations grows every year and it's getting harder and harder to choose our winners, but we're really grateful to the people that take the time to nominate those doing great things across the county.
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'It's fantastic that we get to recognise those people, clubs and groups.
'Everyone had a great time and we're really pleased to be able to put this show on for everyone.'
Power of Physical Activity and Winner of Winners: Costas Eleftheriades
Sponsored by Premier & Active Norfolk
Up until recent years, Costas Eleftheriades, 69, had never really been one for exercise. 'I ran for the train and that was about it,' he says.
As the father of nine children, Mr Eleftheriades was always very busy and did not make time for fitness, becoming quite overweight.
When his son, Tom, died at just 23 years old, that all changed.
Tom's death was caused by a slow moving brain tumour and his loss devastated the family.
Mr Eleftheriades was determined to do something to honour Tom's memory and raise money for others suffering from his condition, and began going to the gym to improve his fitness.
Last September, aged 68, Mr Eleftheriades climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, raising thousands of pounds for the Astro Brain Tumour Fund and The Nasio Trust.
Not satisfied with his monumental achievement, Mr Eleftheriades began running, completing two 10k runs in quick succession.
In September, Mr Eleftheriades completed his first half marathon, running the Great North Run in 2 hours and 46 minutes just after his 69th birthday. Mr Eleftheriades is now heading to his home country of Cyprus to take on the Larnaca half marathon and raise yet more funds for charity.
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Sports Personality: Kimberley Morrison
Sponsored by Pilch Intersport
Triathlete Kimberley Morrison has finished runner-up in this category for the past three years, however, after a remarkable 2017, she was at last crowned the winner.
Mrs Morrison won the Texas Ironman in April, and in August she won both The Monster Triathlon and the National Relay Championships, setting five bike course records along the way in competitions across the globe.
Despite her monumental achievements, Mrs Morrison was not certain she was going to win the prestigious award.
She said: 'I invited friends and family like I do every year and I was really hopeful, but against a phenomenal athlete like Ryan Walsh and Iona Lake, who is a British Champion this year, it was always going to be a tough call.
'I'm ecstatic though. I've been here for the last three years and I've always come runner-up, so it's great this year to finally win.'
Mrs Morrison is not resting on her laurels though and has already set her target for
She said: 'I'm going to race more Ironman competitions next year with the aim of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships, which are in Hawaii in October. The bike is my strength and next year I am working with a team called Drag2Zero, who specialise in cycling aerodynamics, so hopefully I will improve further.'
BBC Unsung Hero: Cecil Page
Sponsored by BBC Radio Norfolk
Cecil Page is well-known and well-loved in his community.
Having dedicated more than 50 years to the Kingfisher Boxing Club in Great Yarmouth, he has been instrumental in offering guidance and support to countless people in the area.
Thanks to his amiable but driven personality, Mr Page has managed to grow the club into a cornerstone of the community, with club numbers continuing to grow year after year.
Now aged 78, Mr Page continues to give up his free time to serve the club and its members.
Mr Page was clearly moved upon recieving the award, but remained humble as ever.
He said: 'It feels great, I wasn't expecting it. The other nominees were just as worthy.
'I know I do a lot, sometimes four nights a week, but without the club I wouldn't have this award.'
The Norfolk Constabulary and MenCap have also praised Mr Page for the work he does for the Great Yarmouth community, providing structure for many who may otherwise feel lost and passing on invaluable knowledge in the process.
Mr Page has also been commended for his inclusive approach to exercise and his work with disabled club members.
Sports Team of the Year: Norfolk U13 Boys Cricket
Sponsored by Easton & Otley College
It was always going to be difficult for the other candidates in this category after Norfolk U13 Boys Cricket team pulled off the perfect season.
The side won all 16 of their county matches during 2017, in a winning streak that saw them defeat first rate opposition such as Kent, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.
But manager Simon Black says his team is already looking to the next challenge.
He said: 'It feels awesome to have beaten so many amazing teams to this award. In 2016 we won every game bar one, and still they managed to improve on that. Now we've had the perfect season but we can still do more - we can beat Sussex, we can beat Surrey, we can beat Middlesex.'
Mr Black said his side's success was a team effort.
He said: 'We've got 14 great kids and each and every single one of them stood up and was counted for when we needed them throughout the season. We don't rely on one or two star players, it's the whole team. 10 of the 14 got a score of 30 or more, every bowler got wickets and everybody got a catch, which says it all really.'
Ben Wilcox, captain, said: 'Our parents do a lot for us. They help us with our preparation and get us to games so we all thank them.'
Services to Disability Sport: Fitness Boxing
Sponsored by Norse
An orthopaedic surgeon and a former European champion boxer may seem like and unlikely pairing, but together Rachael Hutchinson and Jon Thaxton have set up a fitness class that makes a huge difference to its disabled users.
Fitness Boxing is designed to improve the physical and mental health of participants, whilst also increasing confidence and promoting social interaction.
Former professional boxer, Jon Thaxton, dedicated the award to his mother.
He said: 'I just wish my Mum was about - I dedicate the award to her. She worked her whole life with disabled adults and she would be very proud of what we've done. So tomorrow morning this award is going on her grave.'
Rachael Hutchinson, orthopaedic surgeon, said: 'The classes are exactly what my patients need, physically and mentally. Watching them develop has been extraordinary. We have one girl who wouldn't even look up off the floor in her first class, now she's talking and joking with everyone.
'It's great to see these people realise they can do something, because a lot of the time they are brought up knowing what there problems are, rather than knowing what they are capable of.'
Active School of the Year: Rollesby Primary School and Nursery
Sponsored by Young Norfolk Sports Academy
Rollesby Primary School and Nursery has set the benchmark for schools across Norfolk with its inclusive sport and physical activity programme.
PE and Sports are integral features of the school's development plan, with every pupil from reception to year six participating in competitive sports competitions and tournaments.
Diane Howlett, PE coordinator said: 'We try to show them that there is a sport for everybody.'
The school also illuminates the benefits of healthy eating and the importance of fitness by drawing cross-curriculur links between studies.
Through a combination of PE and the new Sports Leaders programme, pupils are being taught to appreciate values such as sportsmanship, pride, responsibility, leadership and commitment.
Louise Hinton, headteacher, said: 'We're delighted, we didn't expect to win.
'Everyone works really hard to make sure that everybody is included, because we're only a small school of 144 pupils, and we don't think that should be a barrier to our children taking part and achieving.
'We really try to broaden the experiences available to our children, we try to offer something different.'
Community Club of the Year: Tri-Anglia
Sponsored by Sportspark
Even for an athletics club, Tri-Anglia is extremely active.
The community club, which specialises in swimming, cycling and running events, has already offered more than 650 training sessions and six races to its 660 members so far this year.
Jane Hannah, chairman, said: 'We were incredibly proud to make it to the shortlist from hundreds of nominations, but to win it is a fantastic accolade to those who started the club many years ago, so a huge thank you must go to them.
'But to be a sports club with 600 plus members, 50 percent of whom are females, is quite remarkable actually.'
The club relies heavily on an extensive pool of volunteers and junior coaches, and the club focuses on retaining members by offering affordable membership and leadership roles to young members.
Jenny Bettinson, treasurer, said: 'I'm really surprised we won, those other candidates were awesome, but I'm happy we have been acknowledged for the work we do to encourage all sorts of people to take part.'
Emily Jones, social secretary, said: 'We have members from seven to 70. We have people running their first race right up to European champions.'
Coach of the Year: Tim & Pauline Ash
Sponsored by 4Sports
When Tim and Pauline Ash were presented with the Coach of the Year award by Darren Huckerby in 2006, they would never have guessed they would be back to pick up the award once again 11 years later.
The pair had planned on settling down in their more senior years, instead, they have been instrumental in coaching at the North Norfolk Harriers, which was established in 2015, as well as continuing their coaching at City of Norwich Athletics Club.
At the respective clubs, they have coached athletes such as Abi Durrand and Iona Lake, who have succeeded in national competitions.
Tim Ash said: 'It's wonderful to win again. We were with City of Norwich Athletics Club for many years, but then we moved to Sheringham and decided we'd have to back off a bit, as we're in our 70s - late 70s in fact.
'But then we got a phone call saying they wanted to start a little club up there and needed some help, and like the mugs we are we got involved.'
The couple's dedication has seen swathes of youngsters in the area get involved with athletics, while other talents have been helped to fulfil their potential.
Pauline Ash said: 'The club has done really well. It has been incredibly rewarding and they're a lovely group of youngsters.'
Young Sports Personality of the Year: Toby Booth
Sponsored by City College Norwich
Toby Booth is making quite the name for himself in the world of kayaking.
At the Nottingham sprint Regatta, Toby, 14, won all of the 11 races he entered, which amounted to a haul of six national gold medals.
As if his phenomenal achievements at the regatta weren't enough to warrant being crowned the Young Sports Personality of the Year, Toby also won gold at the National Marathon Kayak championships.
Despite his impressive feats, Toby was speechless when he was announced as the winner.
He said: 'I'm just so shocked. I think I've gone very red. That was a big surprise, but I am really, really pleased.'
Toby and his family moved 100 miles east to Norfolk a few years ago, in order to nurture his ability behind the paddle.
After moving to Whitlingham Hall, Toby joined the prestigious Whitlingham Canoe Club - one of the country's leading canoe clubs.
With help from the club, Toby's promising talent has been harnessed and he has gone on to excel in national competitions.
Toby said being crowned the Young Sports Personality of the Year has spurred him on.
He said: 'Now I am even more determined to do just as well next year.'
Activity in the Community: Sports Clubs and Hubs
Sponsored by ReAssure
Thanks to this Sport England funded project, more than 2,000 individual participants have had the chance to get involved with exercise classes in North Norfolk.
The club was established as a means of providing sustainable access to sports and physical activities to isolated individuals and communities across the district, utilizing village halls and school sites as sports hubs.
Karl Read, founder, said: 'We are over the moon. We're really surprised to have won, when we were up against two really strong projects.
'I was just so pleased to get to the final to be honest with you, so to have won is just remarkable really.'
So far, the project has delivered activities to 26 different venues across the district, which has strengthened social ties in those areas and has encouraged engagement with those who can too often become forgotten in such communities. The classes are priced at only £1 each, so as not to dissuade anyone from getting involved and improving their wellbeing.
Wyn Nurse, operational manager, echoed Mr Read's sentiments, and was clearly overjoyed to have won the award.
She said: 'I am totally shocked and absolutely thrilled. It's very humbling.'
Active Workplace of the Year: Aviva
Sponsored by Waitrose
Aviva have set an example for other large organisations to follow, winning the Active Workplace of the year for the second year in a row.
The Wellbeing@Aviva initiative has proven that major businesses can successfully incorporate programmes that promote health and fitness into the fabric of a company.
Under the initiative, employees at Aviva are encouraged to participate in a range of sports and activities, while sports forums allow participants to share training tips with their colleagues and promote further engagement.
Health Heroes have been appointed as part of the workplace fitness project, and they are tasked with spreading the company's active ethos throughout the business - 'Be Healthy, Be Secure, Be Mindful and Be Awesome'.
Denise Leahy, physical wellbeing health hero, said: 'We were surprised and delighted to win again, when clearly there are a lot of other firms doing great work with regard to employee wellbeing. We have put a huge amount of work in and we are glad it has paid off.'
New additions to Aviva's sports programme this year include on-site yoga, pilates and dance classes.