Pride of Sport 2017 winners revealed
22 November 2017
Meet the unsung heroes of grassroots sport who all work so hard to help other people in their local communities...
TSB Community Partner Award: Streetsport
Aberdeen-based Streetsport is simultaneously improving the lives of youngsters and helping to combat crime.
Since it was launched in 2006, the initiative has helped thousands of people regularly participate in its sessions, which include street football, street tennis and street dance.
Development Officer Mark Williams sees sport as a way of touching the hardest to reach sections of society, using programmes based on the idea of “prevention, intervention and diversionary activities”.
A corner of Aberdeen that was once a no-go area is now also Scotland’s first unbookable artificial turf football pitch – allowing youngsters constant access to a playing surface and encouraging interaction between groups.
Streetsport has been widely commended, not just by youth organisations, but also by the police, as levels of youth-related violence are now at an all-time low in the city, while calls to the fire brigade on 5 November, the busiest night of the year, also dropped to previously unseen levels last year.
The idea has now spread into prisons, where family visiting times involve sports, games and creative activities rather than just chats across a table, helping inmates and their children maintain an important aspect of family life.
Coach of the Year Award: Maryam Ali
Community cricket coach Maryam Ali is breaking multiple barriers as she inspires the next generation of female cricketers in Yorkshire.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Level 2 coach is running girl-only sessions across the county, taking the sport into inner-city venues across Bradford and Leeds.
Maryam, Yorkshire Cricket Board young coach of the year 2016, is a strong believer that Asian girls need a “safe space” to enjoy and nurture their cricket ability.
Maryam has already transformed the coaching provision available, and the aspiring players she has worked with are embracing her message. She truly believes that cricket is for everyone.
“Where I live, it’s hard for young girls to go out and for their parents to trust them with what they’re doing and what they’re getting up to,” she told Cricket Yorkshire.
“I’ve built that trust with some of the girls’ parents to let their daughters come out and play cricket.”
Team of the Year Award: Dale Youth boxing club
Dale Youth boxing club has proved that the fighting spirit can overcome not just an opponent but also tragedy.
The club moved into the base of Grenfell Tower in west London at the turn of the millennium, training champions including George Groves and James DeGale.
And it wasn’t only the champs who benefited – it also provided an escape for thousands of children and young people from the estate and the wider area, offering them access to sport, exercise and a discipline that may have been lacking from other parts of their lives.
When the tower was destroyed by fire in June, it could have meant the end for the club. But rather than accept defeat, coaches Mick Delaney and Gary McGuinness stepped up.
Within days, they and their boxers were training on a patch of ground in view of the charred remains of Grenfell, and they have now found a temporary home in Ladbroke Grove.
Once again, Dale Youth Boxing Club is offering a gateway into sport for boxers of all abilities and aspirations.
Disabled Sportsperson Award: Claire Lomas
Claire Lomas is true example of how sport and human bravery can combine to achieve great things.
She was paralysed from the chest down in 2007 as of the result of a riding accident – so when she completed the Great North Run in 2016, her gruelling effort was hailed as one of the incredible sporting achievements of the year.
Claire completed the iconic half marathon in a ‘bionic suit’, taking five days to walk the entire course.
Her revolutionary ‘ReWalk’ suit used motion sensors to help her move and lift her legs, despite having no sensation below the chest.
Speaking to BBC Women’s Hour before the race, Claire said that even standing in the suit was a challenge.
“It’s taken some learning. It’s not just physical work, it’s the concentration with every step,” she said.
“It doesn’t just walk for me. I have to use the parts that aren’t paralysed to make it walk.”
One year later, Claire pushed the boundaries even further by completing the 10-mile Great South Run in a single day in October.
Claire gave birth to a baby girl in January, and the following month she received an MBE for services to spinal injury research. Her inspirational work has already raised thousands of pounds to help other spinal injury victims and she has no plans to stop.
Special Recognition Award: Ella Chadwick
Brave little Ella, was born with a rare kidney disease and has spent much of her life in hospital. At just eight weeks old she was diagnosed with congenital nephrotic syndrome, needing six years of dialysis.
But her life was transformed after her grandmother donated one of her kidneys in 2014.
Since the transplant, Ella has been able to walk unaided, when she previously needed a frame, and in May 2016, she crossed the finish line of the Mini Great Manchester Run without the use of her walking frame. Through the run, and other fundraising events, Ella and her family have raised more than £3,000 for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. In the summer she spent her holidays making personalised ‘get well soon’ cards for children still in hospital, with the message: “Hope I made you smile. Love Ella.”
Sporting Fundraiser Award: Mick Cullen
‘Speedo Mick’ doesn’t just have an amazing nickname – he’s also raised more than £100,000 for charity in a most unusual way.
Mick’s charity work began when he swam the English Channel in 2014 to raise £2,000 for a homeless hostel.
The Everton fan, 52, then turned up to the next game at Everton’s home ground Goodison Park in a pair of blue Speedos, with “Channel Swimmer” written on his chest in blue body paint to collect money for charity.
“I’ve swum the Channel, and there’s really no other circumstances in which you could put on a pair of Speedos and stand at a football match, so I thought why not?” he told Liverpool Echo.
Since then, Mick has become something of a legend, wearing his blue trunks and goggles in the stands come rain, shine, sleet and snow, collecting up to £600 each game from fellow fans and rival supporters.
He said: “It’s nerve-racking getting out of the car before a game, and my heart will be pounding. But all the smiles I get from people make me forget my fear. “The support I receive is everything.”
Mick’s total now stands at more than £100,000, mainly for the Woodlands Hospice in Fazakerley, which cared for a friend.
Young Sportsperson Award: Taeja James
Meet the future of British Gymnastics: 15-year-old rising star Taeja James. Taeja became the 2017 Junior Women’s All-Around British Champion in March at the Gymnastics British Championships in Liverpool, showing why she’s one of the UK’s most highly rated young athletes. After the event, the Nottingham-born City of Birmingham Gymnastics Club gymnast said: “I’m really, really happy to be British junior champion, it feels amazing.” Taeja topped the podium on the bar, the vault and floor and then followed that up with a silver on the beam to cap a memorable three days in Merseyside.
Taeja had already given plenty of notice of her potential by helping Great Britain juniors to a silver in the team event at last year’s European Women’s Gymnastic Championships in Berne, Switzerland.
Taeja will join the senior ranks in January 2018 and is sure to continue to carry the flag for Great Britain.
Young Fundraiser Award: Callum Smart
Young Callum Smart used the power of sport to create something positive out of the tragic death of his friend.
Aged just 11, he came up with the idea of a ‘virtual run’ in 2015 to raise money in memory of his friend Daniel Climance, who was killed in a road accident while riding his bike.
The ‘Doing it for Dan – Virtual Race’ in November 2015 asked people to run, walk, swim or cycle either 5k or 10k. The campaign was such a success, it led to 1,000 people running a combined distance of 5,000 miles throughout 2015, raising more than £20,000 for Brake, the road safety charity. People all over the world joined in, and Brake was so impressed with the idea that it decided to launch the virtual run as a fundraising initiative in 2016.
A virtual run can take place at any time and in any location. Participants can walk, jog, run, use a treadmill or take part in any local race. It’s the event’s flexibility that has proved so popular.
And it’s all down to Callum, who turned his best friend’s death into a source of inspiration – one that looks set to endure for years to come.
Young Achiever Award: Isabelle Weall
Isabelle’s story is truly awe-inspiring – a quadruple amputee who became a national trampolining champion.
Aged just seven, Isabelle suffered a heart attack and multiple organ failure as a result of meningitis. Surgeons had to amputate her arms and legs to save her life.
And yet Isabelle would go on to become one of the most talented young athletes in the country.
Isabelle, 14, won her national title in 2016, and throughout 2017 continues to prove that disability is no barrier to success, doing everything she can to inspire others both on and off the springs.
She has recently launched her own YouTube channel in a bid to inspire young people. The Derby-based teenager says: “You should always give something you want to do a go. You can’t just sit down and think, ‘What if I can, what if I can’t’ – you have to try it out.”
Lifetime Achievement: David Weir CBE
David is one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes. The Paralympian has won six Paralympic gold medals, nine marathons and has held nine British records.
His achievements span two decades, but it was his heroics on the track at London 2012 that really brought him to the public’s attention.
He won gold medals in the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and the marathon. In 2014 there was more success on the track when he won gold in the 1500m at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
David, who is affectionately known at The Weirwolf, was born with a spinal cord transection that left him unable to use his legs.
He competed in his first Paralympics in 1996 aged just 17. But it was under the guidance of coach Jenny Archer MBE, that his medal rush really took off.
In 2013, David and Jenny set up the Weir Archer Academy to support disabled athletes of all abilities - from youngsters trying sport for the first time to elite competitors, ensuring his legacy will endure when he decides to give up competitive competitions.
Inspirational Performance: England’s Young Lions
England’s youth football teams are giving disheartened fans hope for the future. The under-17s, under-19s and under-20s took on the best Europe and the rest of the world had to offer, and won.
In June, the Young Lions won the FIFA under-20 World Cup, beating Mexico, Italy and Argentina along the way giving England its first major trophy since 1966.
The following month, the under-19 team won the UEFA European Championship, beating Portugal 2-1. In October, the under-17 squad made it a triple victory when they beat Spain to win their World Cup final.
The Pride of Sport judges said: “England’s Young Lions offer real hope of a bright future for the national team. Across three age groups they beat giants of football including Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy, bringing home three trophies. A sensational achievement.
Special Recognition: Billy Monger
Racing driver Billy Monger has inspired fans and the public after getting back behind the wheel after both of his legs had to be amputated following a high-speed crash.
He was driving at 120mph when he hit a stationary car at Donington Park in April just a few days before his 18th birthday.
The rising star’s career was cut short and he could have been forgiven for turning his back on the sport for good.
But Billy had other ideas. Within just three months the young sportsman was already back on the track in the cockpit of his Team Brit Racing Car at Brands Hatch. The adapted racer was designed to look like a VW Beatle and has specially adapted hand controls.
He has now set himself the target of competing in the Le Mans 24-hour race in France.
Off the track he has taken part in fundraising to say thanks to the Air Ambulance which helped save his life.
The judges said: “From the moment he woke up in hospital Billy has been determined to get back behind the wheel and help other people. A truly remarkable young man.”
Sporting Achievement: Si-am Juntakereket
Si-am was given the sporting achievement award for becoming the fastest child ever to cycle across Australia.
At the age of 13 he rode 2,784 miles from Sydney to Perth in just 29 days, beating the previous record by 16 days.
The teenager from Cornwall endured temperatures of 40 degrees, strong headwinds, sunburn and insect bites during the ride which he started on 3 March.
He cycled around 100 miles every day as he travelled from east to west, sleeping in a tent as he went. His mother Tania followed him in a car the whole time.
And midway through the epic journey he celebrated his 14th birthday.
The youngster started cycling four years ago and decided to ride across Australia a year ago after being inspired by his coach, endurance athlete Bob Brown. Bob started the journey with him and was with him for the first half of the trip but Si-am completed the challenge alone.
He stepfather Simon said: “It was arduous and gruelling but he kept his spirits high. Si-am is pleased that he’s done it – he wants to keep going. Someone mentioned to him that there’s a cycle path across the whole of Canada so that’s his next plan.”
The ride raised thousands of pounds for disability charity United Response and Red Nose Day.
All pictures: Tim Whitby/Getty