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These people have inspired generation after generation . . .

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 16, 2012

  • Lifetime Services to Sport: Shane Sullivan, of Charlestown Rowing Club with Olympic fencer James Honeybone and Andrew McKnight from Miller Countrywide.

  • Young Coach of the Year U25: Melissa Reid, of Gyllyngvase Surf Life Saving Club, with Annie Vernon and Jess Rollings.

  • National Award: Liam Dart of Launceston being presented with the FA National Coach of the Year Award by Annie Vernon and Jess Rollings.

  • Alex Russell: being presented with the Outstanding Commitment Awards and Raising Awareness of Epilepsy through Sport award by Mark McDade from Epilepsy Action.

  • Sportivate Project of the Year: Sportivate Explores Rowing at Nankersey Gig Club (represented by Alice Bayfield and Anne Oliver with Paralympic table tennis player David Wetherill (left) and Andrew Hanson from Sport England.

  • Community Volunteer of the Year: Revis Crowle with Olympic fencer James Honeybone and Rachel Faulkner from Cornwall & Isles of Scilly NHS Health Promotion Service.

  • Junior Club of the Year: Jon Wotton representing Cornwall Youth Badminton, with Nick Pryce from Tony Sports, and Tim Coventry from Sport England.

  • Performance & Development Coach of the Year: David White, Storm Netball Club, with Olympic rower Annie Vernon and Jess Rollings from Truro & Penwith College.

Comments (0)

I ATTENDED the Cornwall Sports Awards, held to celebrate the incredible work of volunteers and coaches around the county.

I felt humbled in the company of 250 guests who are the backbone of Cornish sport; and whereas the motto of the London Olympics was 'Inspire a Generation' it's the kind of people who were at the dinner on Friday who have inspired generation after generation.

I spent eight very intense years as a full-time athlete trying to be the best I could be; the guests on Friday have spent decade after decade giving up their evenings and weekends to help so many other people be the best that they could be.

Sporty kids in Cornwall face many challenges if they want to compete at a higher level above county standard, or fancy a go representing Britain at age-group level.

My international rowing career started in my final year at university so by the time I had to attend national training centres and GB trials, I was already living 'up country'.

For athletes who wish to compete on the national stage, it's a long way to national centres of training or competition such as Birmingham, Crystal Palace or Gateshead (track and field), Bath and Sheffield (swimming), or the Thames Valley (rowing).

It is incredibly costly and time-consuming to spend a weekend travelling, and this is another job that many of our volunteers do without any recompense.

But at the same time, we should remember that Cornwall is a wonderful place to grow up, and coming from such a tight community with such a strong sense of identity can set up any athlete on their way to sporting success.

I always felt that every time I went out to race, I had the whole of Cornwall with me, driving me on; and my fellow Olympic rowers Helen Glover and Ed Coode have said exactly the same thing.

I often used to look at my competitors, from every country round the globe, and pity them – they didn't realise that not only were they taking on the British rowing team, but the whole of Cornwall.

The sporting facilities in Cornwall will vary sport to sport, but in rowing we're certainly in a great place at the moment. Not many young junior rowers from sliding-seat clubs up country will have access to the kind of training, support, enthusiasm and regular cut-throat racing that young Cornish gig and flash boat or skiff rowers enjoy.

This will set them up incredibly well if they do end up living elsewhere and wish to try the 'other' kind of rowing.

And with the Cornish Pirates right there on the verge of promotion to the Premiership, and Exeter Chiefs showing what can be achieved by a small, tough and united club, I really refuse to believe that geographical isolation is a barrier to young athletes who want to achieve great things in their chosen sport.

However, international sport is merely one chapter of the story. I firmly believe that sport isn't just about the people on the TV who win medals and represent their country, but about everyone who enjoys sport, at every level.

A farmer who lives near me spent most of his life working night and day; then discovered surfing in his forties and since then has been round the world, goes in at Polzeath right through the year, and absolutely loves it.

My sister-in-law has had three children, and has gone back to playing netball, starting once a week at Wadebridge. I spent eight years rowing but have entered a 10k run at Christmas.

Sport has many faces and while it was my full-time job for eight years, it was there for me for 22 years prior to that, and will be there for me for many decades to come.

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