Rowing, cycling dominate
Two sports continue to scoop top awards
By DAVID DAWKINS – The Marlborough Express
Rowing and cycling continued their remarkable dominance of the awards at last night’s Marlborough Express Blenheim Round Table Sportsperson of the Year awards dinner.
While Wairau rower Duncan Grant took home the night’s major award as Marlborough Sportsperson of the Year for 2009, track cyclist Cameron Karwowski was named the Blenheim Round Table Most Promising Under-21 Sportsperson of the Year.
Grant’s honour marked the third time he has won the award and the fourth straight year rowing has taken the top prize.
A rower or cyclist has now been recognised as Marlborough’s top sporting achiever for the past 11 years since Robin Reid won the award in 1999.
Reid also won in 2004, while fellow cyclists Jason Allen (2000, 2005), Mark Inglis (2001) and Justin Leov (2003) have also claimed the honour.
Rowers to win in the 11-year span are Grant (2009, 2007, 2006), Joseph Sullivan (2008) and Rob Hellstrom (2002).
Marlborough Basketball’s Jacqueline Taylor was named the Sport Marlborough Sports Administrator of the Year.
A sellout crowd of 360 sports fans packed Marlborough Lines Stadium for the annual awards dinner, and were entertained by Air New Zealand Cup guest speaker rower Mahe Drysdale. Drysdale, who almost missed the event when his flight out of London was cancelled, gave a forthright account of his thoughts and feelings at last year’s Beijing Olympics where he won a bronze medal despite battling illness.
He spoke of his journey from a 116kg office worker to world champion rower, achieving his dream of making the Olympics and what motivates him to remain at the top.
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman kept the night running smoothly as master of ceremonies.
However, the night belonged to Grant.
In Poznan, Poland, in August, he became just the fourth New Zealander to complete a hat-trick of world titles when he took out the lightweight single sculls crown, winning by more than a second.
His efforts saw him named New Zealand Rower of the Year.
However, even that honour didn’t mean he was a certainty to earn his sport’s nomination for last night’s event.
2008 Marlborough Sportsperson of the Year, Picton’s Sullivan, and Wairau rower Robbie Manson combined to win the world under-23 double sculls title and must have received serious consideration for rowing’s nod.
Grant gave special credit to that crew and said the competition within the New Zealand rowing squads was one of the things that drove them to be the best.
Grant said he faced a busy year as he builds toward the 2010 world champs at Lake Karapiro where he hopes to emulate Drysdale’s feat of four world titles.
With the lightweight single not an Olympic event, Grant said his focus would then shift to either the lightweight pair or four with an aim to make the 2012 Olympic team.
Karwowski’s day started in hail and cold in Invercargill, but finished with a perfect sunny Marlborough glow after taking the under-21 honour.
Last year, the 18-year-old made the tough decision to base himself in Invercargill to train at the city’s world-class velodrome.
That choice paid off as he teamed up with Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster to take out the men’s team sprint at the UCI World Junior Track Cycling Championships in Moscow in August.
“Last year I had to decide whether I wanted to be a uni student and live that life, or take a risk and go for it in cycling and try and achieve my dream of making the New Zealand team. I did that and a lot more,” Karwowski said.
After his success in track sprint events, Karwowski said he planned to shift his focus back to his original strength of longer track rides and had just returned from attending a Bike NZ elite endurance camp.
With numerous top cyclists in the sprint events, Karwowski said he felt his pathway to elite level could be blocked and he would focus on the omnium, where he placed eighth at the junior worlds, despite limited practice.
Taylor won the administrators’ award from three other nominees. A tireless worker in the Marlborough Basketball office, Taylor is a key organiser of senior and junior basketball competitions and played a leading role in the smooth running of the Marlborough Basketball Association’s 60th anniversary celebrations.