London, UKPhillips Idowu and Christine Ohuruogu were named British Athletes of the Year at an awards ceremony in London on Saturday (25) evening.
The two Olympic medallists were voted Britain’s top athletes of 2008 in a poll among members of the British Athletics Writers’ Association, Ohuruogu winning the female Athlete of the Year trophy for the second year in a row.
The 24-year-old was Britain’s only athletics gold medallist in Beijing where she added the Olympic 400m crown to her World Championships and Commonwealth Games titles, beating pre-race favourite and world number one Sanya Richards of the USA in 49.62.
“It means so much to me to be recognised by the British athletics writers,” said Ohuruogu in a message to a 400-strong gathering of journalists, athletes and guests at BAWA’s 46th Annual Awards Dinner.
“Athletics writers are our window to the rest of the world,” Ohuruogu said. “People learn about our performances through you so this award means a lot to me.”
Idowu received the male Athlete of the Year award from BAWA chairman Jason Henderson, editor of Athletics Weekly.
The 29-year-old triple jumper from Hackney broke Jonathan Edwards’ British record with 17.75m to win the World Indoor Championships in March and later claimed the Olympic silver medal in Beijing where he missed out on gold by just 5cm to Portugal’s Nelson Evora
“This is a great achievement,” said Idowu. “I was disappointed in Beijing because I wanted to win, but if someone had said 12 months ago that I’d have an Olympic medal now I’d have snatched it with both hands.
“We’ve had such a great response since we’ve been back from Beijing that it’s inspired me to go on for another four years.”
Twell garners junior honour
World junior champion Stephanie Twell was voted junior female Athlete of the Year. The 19-year-old from Farnborough won the 1500m title in Bydgoszcz, Poland, in July and was later selected for Britain’s Beijing Olympic team after setting a personal best of 4:05.83.
The junior male Athlete of the Year Award went to David Forrester, the second European finisher at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh. The 18-year-old from St Helens went on to finish ninth over 1500m at the World Junior Championships.
Ohuruogu was also named as a joint winner of the 2008 Best Performance in a British Vest trophy presented by the sport’s sponsors Aviva who were celebrating their tenth year supporting the ceremony at the Royal Lancaster Hotel.
Ohuruogu, who also won the Aviva award in 2007, shared this year’s trophy with wheelchair athlete David Weir who won four medals, including two golds, at the Paralympic Games.
Lord Sebastian Coe presented coach George Gandy with the Ron Pickering Memorial Award for services to athletics. Gandy is director of the UK Athletics High Performance Centre at Loughborough University and currently coaches Lisa Dobriskey, the Commonwealth Games 1500m champion who finished fourth in Beijing.
Over his 36-year career Gandy has guided many of Britain’s top international distance runners including former European 5000m champion Jack Buckner and double Olympic marathon fourth placer Jon Brown, as well as Coe, the 1980 and 1984 Olympic 1500m champion.
Coe, now an IAAF Vice President and head of the London 2012 Olympic organising committee, paid tribute to his former mentor, saying: “When I arrived at Loughborough in the late 1970s some of the conditioning work this guy gave me provided the basis for much of what I achieved. It was revolutionary stuff.”
“I thought I was beyond surprises but this was not what I was expecting tonight,” said Gandy.
Shaun Pickering introduced the award which is named in honour of his father, a well-known coach and TV presenter in Britain throughout the 1970s and 80s. The former international shot putter revealed that he and Ron’s widow Jean have so far raised £900,000 to support young athletes in the UK since the fund was set up 19 years ago.
“We are well on track to reach our goal of raising £1 million by 2012,” he said.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF