A world champion cyclist and a diverse trio of athletes from Sydney’s west dominated the annual NSW Institute of Sport Awards at a gala ceremony at the Sydney Cricket Ground last night.
Penrith’s Rio Paralympic rowing hopeful Erik Horrie claimed the ClubsNSW Male Athlete of the Year award, Faulconbridge’s rising swimming star Matthew Wilson picked up the Mizuno Junior Athlete of the Year prize and St Clair’s world cup winning netballer Paige Hadley beat a red-hot all-woman field to take home the prestigious Ian Thorpe OAM Outstanding Achievement presented by NEC Australia.
Others to win major awards on a stunning Sydney night hosted by Alan Jones AO, included Menai cyclist Ashlee Ankudinoff in the Sydney City Toyota Female Athlete of the Year category, and Gillieston Heights’ London Paralympic swimming gold medallist Maddison Elliott in the Office of Sport Regional Athlete of the Year class.
Ankudinoff, coming off the back of a world championship winning performance as part of Australia’s team pursuit quartet, won the award in a category that also featured Elliott, Winter Olympian Britteny Cox, world champion netballer Sharni Layton and the 2014 winner and slalom canoe Olympic silver medallist Jessica Fox.
Ankudinoff had a stellar year on the track but was still shocked to claim the award in such a tightly contested category.
"I’m a bit lost for words to be honest, the other nominees have all had plenty of success but personally I couldn’t have asked for a better year," Ankudinoff said.
"To be crowned Australian champion, Oceania champion and world champion and then to receive this award, it tops off a great year after all the hard work I have put in.
"I have a lot to thank the NSWIS and my coach Brad McGee for over the last year and a half, I wasn’t in the top four in Australia or in the Australian team this time last year, so without their support I definitely wouldn’t be standing here with this award as a world champion."
Horrie’s award was further recognition for his brilliant year that witnessed a third consecutive world arms and shoulders single scull world title in an event that he remains unbeaten in since a heroic silver medal winning performance at the London Paralympics.
The multi-sport Australian representative won the gong ahead of fellow rower Cameron Girdlestone, freestyle skier Russ Henshaw, canoe sprint paddlers Lachlan Tame and Riley Fitzsimmons and Paralympic swimmer Matthew Levy.
Horrie, who has also been nominated for the world para-rowing athlete of the year, said the award was a nice sweetener to go with his world title.
“This certainly has capped off a very good year for me,” Horrie said.
“It is nice when you are recognised and win these awards. It’s not what you get up for in the mornings, but it’s the icing on the cake to actually be recognised for your results, which I think every athlete wants to get.”
Horrie paid tribute to the team around him that is helping drive a three-year unbeaten run.
“Without the support of the NSWIS and all the staff that work with me I wouldn’t be here today. The move I made to be with NSWIS in 2013 has certainly been the best move as far as my rowing career goes.”
Other award winners on the night included hurdler Nicholas Hough, who won two awards – the Academic Excellence award for the University of Sydney and the Commonwealth Bank Excellence in Vocation and Sport prize. Incredibly it was the third year in a row that the Bella Vista based Rio Olympic hopeful has claimed the Sydney Uni academic award.
The Australian College of Physical Education Academic Excellence – General prize was won by freestyle moguls skier Matthew Graham, the NSWIS Coach of the Year presented by the AIS Centre for Performance Coaching and Leadership, was cycling’s Bradley McGee OAM, whilst cycling also won the Sydney Olympic Park Authority Program of the Year.
The NSW Institute of Sport CEO, Charles Turner, said the quality of award winners and other nominees demonstrated the strong position NSWIS athletes were in leading into 2016 and the Rio Olympic Games and Paralympics.
“It has been another year of NSWIS athletes shining on both the domestic and international stage and it is great that we can come here tonight and celebrate everyone’s achievements,” Turner said.
“Every year is important to an athlete but an Olympic and Paralympic year has that extra special importance and the athletes that were honoured tonight have some very big opportunities in 2016 and we are proud to be able to support them in trying to achieve their goals.”
Full list of awards winners (with sport and home suburb):
The Australian College of Physical Education Academic Excellence – General
Matthew Graham (Winter Sport)
The University of Sydney Academic Excellence
Nicholas Hough (Track & Field)
Commonwealth Bank Excellence in Vocation and Sport
Nicholas Hough (Track & Field)
Ian Thorpe OAM Outstanding Achievement presented by NEC Australia
Paige Hadley (Netball)
Mizuno Junior Athlete of the Year
Matthew Wilson (Swimming)
Office of Communities, Sport and Recreation Regional Athlete of the Year
Maddison Elliot (Swimming)
NSWIS Coach of the Year Presented by the AIS Centre for Performance Coaching and Leadership
Bradley McGee OAM (Cycling)
Sydney Olympic Park Program of the Year
Sydney City Toyota Female Athlete of the Year
Ashlee Ankudinoff (Cycling)
ClubsNSW Male Athlete of the Year
Erik Horrie (Rowing)
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