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Pride of Marlborough

Outstanding athletes vie for award honours

Last updated 11:30 15/11/2012

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Thirty-three nominees from 27 sports will be honoured at this year's Marlborough Express Blenheim Round Table Sportsperson of the Year awards dinner, celebrating the best Marlborough sport has to offer.

Five judges have the task of choosing the overall winner of the Sportsperson of the Year award and a Most Promising under-21 Sportsperson of the Year, from a collection of outstanding athletes, including an Olympic Games gold medallist, plus national and provincial champions in a wide variety of sporting codes.

While there can be only one supreme winner, the event is as much about celebrating the overall success of sport in Marlborough and provides an opportunity for each nominee to enjoy their hard-earned moment in the public and media spotlight, as their achievements are read out and saluted.

Also at stake is the Administrator of the Year award, presented by Sport Tasman.

Former champion swimmer and real estate auctioneer Aaron Davis is master of ceremonies, while the Air New Zealand guest speaker is Black Sticks New Zealand women's hockey team co-captain Kayla Sharland, who will no doubt reflect on her team's thrilling London Olympic Games' campaign, which ended so agonisingly close to a medal.

The judging panel has one change this year, with Round Table representative Jason Walker replacing Mike Kilworth. Returning on the panel are Marlborough Express sports editor Peter Jones, multisport ace Andrea Koorey, sports personality David Cosgrove and squash identity Nic Dann.

Eleven of last year's nominees are back, including Anna Tempero, who is nominated in two sports, gymnastics and athletics. Callum Saunders is the road cycling nominee, having been the track cycling nominee in 2011. Other returning nominees are Charlotte Wadsworth for endurance and trail riding, badminton star Joseph Timms, rally star John Kennard, the pride of Picton, Joseph Sullivan, and his fellow Olympian Fiona Paterson, promising sailor Taylor Burn, smallbore rifle shooting legend Val Wadsworth, rising squash star Megan Craig and top swimmer Sara Gane.

The Administrator of the Year nominees are Ed Gilhooly (cricket), Susan O'Rourke (rowing), Simon Halliday (basketball), Alvyn Meiklejohn (volleyball) and Sharon Smith (gym sports).

Monday's winner will follow in the giant footsteps of 45 previous winners. It all began in 1967 under the current format when All Blacks forward Alan Sutherland took the title. He also won it the following year and again in 1970, then in 1973 as part of Marlborough's famous Ranfurly Shield-winning rugby team.

Triple men's lightweight rowing single-scull champion Duncan Grant is the only other to have won it three times (2006, 2007 and 2009).

Double winners have been golfer Elliott Boult (1985 and 1987) and rower Joseph Sullivan (2008 and 2011). All Black Brian Ford took the title in 1973 and 1979, and rugby ace David Neal won it in 1972 and 1973. Cyclists Robin Reid (1999 and 2004) and Jason Allen (2000 and 2005) were also dual winners.

Brothers Graeme and Allan Miller triumphed in the early 1980s for their outstanding cycling exploits, while father and son Geoff and David Hocquard, of the famous woodcutting family, both won the main award.

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Cycling and rowing have dominated the winners' podium in recent years, winning every title since 1999, when road cycling's Reid took it.

Tony Brook first won it for rowing in 1982 and David Shepherd prevailed in 1997, but the dominance of rowing began in 2002 when Olympian Rob Hellstrom took it, and Marlborough's most successful sport in recent times has won it every year since Grant won the first of his three titles in 2006.

Only four women have won it, the last being diver Susan Stewart in 1984.

The major sponsors this year are Wadsco Motors, Air New Zealand, Constellation New Zealand, the Marlborough Express, More FM, Continental and the Blenheim Round Table.

- The Marlborough Express

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