Ultraman Alan Macpherson hailed St Edmundsbury’s sporting talent after being named the borough’s Sports Personality of the Year.
A capacity crowd once again filled The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on Friday as the The St Edmundsbury Sports Awards, sponsored by Abbeycroft Leisure and supported by the Bury Free Press and sister paper the Haverhill Echo, recognised the achievements of sportsmen, women and juniors in the borough.
And after receiving the evening’s main award, the shocked 40-year-old, who became the first Brit to conquer all three Ultraman championships in Wales, Canada and Hawaii, spoke of his pride at being honoured among such a plethora of talent.
“I honestly never expected to win such an amazing award,” he said.
“As an individual doing such a low profile sport it really is an honour to receive the award.
“For me though these awards show just how much talent there is in St Edmundsbury, you only have to look at those who are not even here.
“We have incredible athletes; the speedway team, the rugby team, the swimming clubs and numerous others who you read about competing in international events.
“I don’t think I’ve ever finished a major event as number one and so for me it really is an honour.”
Another shocked winner on the night was young football star Georgina Allen, who beat a strong field of exceptional youngsters to collect the Young Sports Personality of the Year award.
And Allen, who has taken her first steps to a professional career with the Arsenal Ladies youth team has now set her sights on emulating her senior club heroes Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith.
“It is incredible to get this award and really unexpected,” she said.
“I sat there among so many great young athletes that I was just happy to be here if I’m honest.
“Looking at the future I would love to play for Arsenal’s senior team and then one day represent England, that is the real dream.
“I walk past Rachel and Kelly at training and it is incredible, I would love to emulate them.”
The evening also saw a special talk given by Paralympian Brian Alldis, who received the Lifetime Achievement award, as he reflected on the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and his preparations for Rio 2016, while Bury Cricket Club duo David Barker and Paul Whittaker picked up the Unsung Hero award for their involvement in the new Victory Ground sports development.
There was double celebration for Bury’s cricket club as Chris Honeyball was named the Young Community Volunteer of the Year, while Wayne Morris was deservedly handed the Triumph over Adversity award after overcoming crippling personal issues with the aid of sport.
The highly successful Bury-based Jetts D netball side were named Junior Team of the Year and were followed with Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club capping off their ‘invincible’ promotion season to be honoured as the Senior Team of the Year, while Gavin Hogg was also named Coach of The Year after guiding the club to the National League for the first time.
Meanwhile, another team to be recognised for their achievements this year was Bury St Edmunds Tchoukball team, who kicked off proceedings to be named Team of the Year.
“We were all completely shocked, we were just delighted to be nominated,” admitted player Ian Parker.
“We’ve made special efforts to help grow Tchoukball this year and I think as a sport it has something for everyone.
“Everyone can play together no matter what age and we have seen it become really popular.”
The evening was fittingly capped off with young athlete Rhys Turnbull being celebrated as the People’s Champion, voted for by readers of the Free Press and Echo, after an incredible journey which saw him deal with the affects of dyspraxia, an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement, to impress on the athletics track.
“I’m really proud to be given this award,” he said.
“It is amazing because I’ve come so far with my running and I’m really pleased.
“It was a hard journey but I got there and this just shows how far I’ve come.”