European triathlon champion Esther Colman was shocked to be named the borough’s elite sports star at the St Edmundsbury Sports Awards.
The West Suffolk Wheelers and Triathlon Club member could not believe she beat the likes of Paralympian Brian Alldis to the Frames Conservatories Direct Sports Personality of the Year Award at the eighth annual ceremony, held at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on Friday.
Colman deservedly lifted the accolade after a stellar year saw her crowned European under-20s’ champion at Olympic distance in Austria, as well as picking up a national silver medal.
“When I saw Brian up there in the list of finalists, I thought there was no way I could win,” said Colman, who thanked her parents for their support. “It’s great to win – I couldn’t quite believe it.”
Colman is now set to head to university in Leeds, where Alistair and Jonny Brownlee train, so she hopes to further her sporting career as well as her education.
Readers of the Bury Free Press and sister paper Haverhill Echo voted for Bury St Edmunds Hockey Club’s Andy Tooke as the winner of the People’s Champion Award, completing a memorable night for Tooke as he also collected the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce Unsung Hero Award.
“I’m very surprised,” said Tooke, who has taken junior teams to national, regional, county and club championship success.The coaching has been so enjoyable – developing youngsters and see them from the age of six go through to 16 is fantastic.
“Hockey is quite a minority sport, so to win the People’s Champion Award is just unbelievable – it’s staggering.”
Bury St Edmunds Tchoukball Club, one of Europe’s leading tchoukball sides, were crowned Music Sales Club of the Year, while St Edmundsbury Sailing and Canoeing Association’s Margaret Gardiner won the Our Bury St Edmunds Lifetime Achievement Award for 33 years of service to sailing.
Priory School athlete Rhys Turnbull-Bester — last year’s People’s Champion — won the Cotswold Outdoor Triumph Over Adversity Award for picking up national medals, despite dealing with the co-ordination disorder Dyspraxia.
He could barely walk across a playground without falling over at the age of five, when he was diagnosed with the condition.
West Suffolk Swimming Club’s Dan Pilbrow was named Baker Tilly Coach of the Year, the Bury Foxes women’s rugby team were crowned Sodexo Senior Team of the Year Award winners and Bury St Edmunds Hockey Club’s under-16s indoor team won the St Edmundsbury Borough Council Junior Team of the Year Award.
Other victors were Commonwealth Games air rifle competitor Larissa Sykes (West Suffolk College Young Sports Personality of the Year), Haverhill Gymnastics Club’s David Kierkwski (Havebury Housing Young Community Vounteer) and Havebury Housing (Suffolk Sport Most Active Workplace).
Matt Hickey, Abbeycroft’s health, fitness and physical activity development manager, said: “This year has been a fantastic year for sport for many of our local sportsmen and women, juniors and clubs in St Edmundsbury.
“The awards grow from strength to strength each year and this year we have had people from a huge range of sports nominated, from tchoukball to rifle shooting and from boxing to sailing.
“The awards continue to highlight the fantastic sporting talent we have here in St Edmundsbury and encourage others who are thinking of taking up sport to take inspiration from those in their own community.”