The unheralded heroes of sport in the region were honoured at this year’s North East Disability Sports Awards.
The awards, which were held at The Durham Centre yesterday (Tuesday 25 February), aimed to recognise and celebrate the achievements of participants, coaches and clubs in 2013.
Over 140 guests from the world of sport were in attendance at the event, with over 100 individuals and clubs nominated for the eight awards on offer.
The Male and Female Personality of the Year awards went to Paralympian Josef Craig and swimmer Nicole Lough respectively. The Young Achiever awards were won by Ryan Spencer and Megan Atkinson.
Anne Cradock won the Service to Sport award for her years of work in schools and tireless volunteering, while cricket coach Ron Young won Coach of the Year. After a successful 2013 Northern Thunder Powerchair Football Club were presented with the Club of the Year gong and wheelchair gymnast Kieran Maxwell won Participant of the Year.
Ryan Spencer, from Sendai Kushiro Karate Club, said: “I want to be a role model for other kids with disabilities and show that you can achieve anything so long as you put your mind to it, so I’m really proud to have won this award.
“Over the next year I want to get back competing so I can attend the European Championships that are taking place later this year in Zurich.”
Cricket coach Ron Young said: “It’s fantastic for me to be recognised for my work, but it’s also great for everyone involved in disability cricket. I’ve had great support from Durham Cricket Board, the Foundation of Light and a host of other groups and individuals. I really couldn’t have won this award without their help.”
Jean Lordon, Executive Director of Tees Valley Sport said: “These awards are a fantastic way to celebrate the successes of our region’s sporting stars. During the nomination process we’ve heard about some very talented sportspeople and lots of activity being provided in our community sports clubs. It’s great to have the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of these participants, coaches and clubs.”
The event was organised by the regional County Sports Partnerships, supported by the English Federation of Disability Sport and sponsors D&P Trophies, Future Sport, House of Type, Metro Rod North East, SMILE Through Sport and Transforming Culture.
The results of the awards were as follows:
The Male Personality Award sponsored by House of Type – Josef Craig
After last year’s success at London 2012 Josef had another stellar year in 2013. He attended the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal last summer, winning gold in the S7 400m Freestyle and the S7 100m Freestyle as well as picking up silver in the S7 50m Freestyle. Not content with medals, Josef also broke the world record on his way to gold in the 400m Freestyle.
The Female Personality Award sponsored by SMILE Through Sport – Nicole Lough
Swimmer Nicole Lough picked up bronze at the IPC Swimming World Championships in the SB14 100m Breaststroke competition, however the road to the final was a hard one for Nicole. She was diagnosed with Raynaud’s phenomenon before the championships began and picked up a knee injury meaning she was on crutches until the day before the race. Her grit and determination helped her place third in the competition.
The Young Male Achiever Award sponsored by Future Sport – Ryan Spencer
A member of Sendai Kushiro Karate Club, Ryan represented his country on both European and world stage in 2013 despite suffering from rare bone disease HME. His efforts saw him win two bronze medals at the European Championships in the individual cadet kumite and team kumite events. Unfortunately his competition was cut short after breaking his arm. Earlier in the year Ryan also went to the World Championships and won a silver medal in the team kumite event. He is now working towards becoming a coach at his club.
The Young Female Achiever Award sponsored by Future Sport – Megan Atkinson
It’s been a golden year for all-round athlete Megan Atkinson. At the World Dwarf Games in Michigan, USA she won gold in the 100m backstroke, 200m and 100m individual medley events, as well as two silver medals. In the National Dwarf Games she won a further four gold medals in the pool as well as seven medals in track and field events. Her most impressive haul however was at the National Youth and Junior Swimming Championships at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, where she picked up a massive nine gold medals.
The Service to Sport Award sponsored by D&P Trophies – Anne Cradock
Throughout her life Anne has worked hard to make sure that people with disabilities were able to participate in sport. A former PE teacher, Anne encouraged her pupils to take part in the British Sports Association for the Disabled competitions. She quickly became a much sought after volunteer, helping out regional and national competitions in sports as diverse as swimming, netball and boccia. Even after her retirement from teaching Anne was still involved and in 2012 was asked to be part of the refereeing delegation for the boccia competition at the Paralympic Games.
The Club of the Year Award sponsored by Metro Rod North East – Northern Thunder Powerchair Football Club
In 2013 Northern Thunder supported 43 individuals with a physical disability to access the sport of Powerchair Football. The club’s elite side won the Premier League in style, scoring 128 without conceding during the season. They also secured more silverware, winning the Wheelchair Football Association National Cup and Middlesbrough Charity Shield. The side’s success also saw them compete in the European Championships, getting all the way to the final of the competition for the first time in their history. A penalty shootout loss meant Northern Thunder finished the year as the second best Powerchair Football side on the continent.
The Participant of the Year Award sponsored by Transforming Culture – Kieran Maxwell
In 2010 Kieran Maxwell was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancer of the bone, which led to him having his leg amputated. In 2012 Kieran started gymnastics and after only one year of training he was entered into the regional NDP Wheelchair Acrobatics competition along with his partner Abbie. He won gold and qualified for the National Championships. Eight days before the competition Kieran found out that his cancer had returned and he had tumours in his lungs. Not wanting to let his coaches down he delayed his treatment. Despite his illness and the fact he was competing against much more experienced gymnasts Kieran won gold again, posting the third highest score of the day. Kieran trained throughout his chemotherapy and his just finished his treatment. He is focused on continuing his gymnastics and is hoping to start running.
The Coach of the Year Award sponsored by sports coach UK – Ron Young
Ron has been involved in deaf cricket for over 20 years but has now begun working with Durham County Cricket Club on their pan-disability programme Sportability. Ron is now involved in grassroots Table Cricket, Kwik Cricket and established the Durham Visually Impaired team all in addition to his work as Head Coach for the England Deaf Cricket Team, which he retired from only to be asked to return a month after his exit. In 2013 he began to lay the foundations for of a county cricket squad for players with learning disabilities and supported two visually impaired players become coaches themselves.