Olympic sailing gold medallist Tom Burton and Paralympic golden girl Maddison Elliott have scooped the major gongs at a star-studded NSW Institute of Sport awards night at the SCG on Thursday.
Burton, who sailed to Olympic gold in the Laser class on debut in Rio, won the coveted ClubsNSW Male Athlete of the Year category for the first time ahead of wheelchair rugby hero Ryley Batt, Paralympic football player turned track star James Turner, Olympic silver medal winning rower Cameron Girdlestone and winter sports ace Matthew Graham.
But it was Elliott who was the star of the night, taking home no less than three awards, including the top women’s prize, the Sydney City Toyota Female Athlete of the Year award.
Elliott was considered the state’s best in a category that also recognized the remarkable achievements of fellow Paralympic swimming gold medallists Ellie Cole, Rio Olympic sailing silver medallist Lisa Darmanin, dual Olympic canoe slalom medallist Jessica Fox and leading Australian netball defender Sharni Layton.
The 18-year-old Elliott also claimed NSW Institute of Sport Regional Athlete of the Year and Mizuno Junior Athlete of the Year for her efforts including winning three gold and two silver medals at the Rio Paralympics.
“It has definitely been a huge year. I had a few ups and downs with some injury, I lost a friend to illness, but I bounced back from all of that and competed well in Rio,” Elliott enthused.
“And then tonight, I am honestly shocked to have won all three awards that I was nominated for, I don’t think that will happen again. I’m living in the moment.
Meanwhile Burton said he was humbled to have won Male Athlete of the Year, an award he never really expected.
“It’s been a really good year for me, someone asked me a question about what it would be like to win this award [Male Athlete of the Year], and as you set goals when you’re younger, you don’t think of things like this one as ones to win,” Burton said.
“I’ve been to many awards nights, and you think you need to pull out something special against so many great athletes, so tonight really does cap off a great year.”
The NSWIS CEO Charles Turner said Burton and Elliott had thoroughly deserved their accolades and paid tribute to all the award winners and nominees.
“What Tom and young Maddison have achieved in 2016 – an Olympic and Paralympic year – was wonderful and the reward for many years of hard work and sacrifice here at the NSWIS,” Mr Turner said.
“The NSWIS and our partners are privileged to be able to support such high calibre athletes in their quest for excellence and we will continue to do so moving towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“Tonight’s other award winners, the rest of the nominees and indeed all of the NSWIS scholarship holders, coaches and support staff should be congratulated on not only their performances over the past 12 months but also the way in which they have conducted themselves and represented the NSWIS.”
Rio Olympic relay bronze medal winning swimmer Matt Abood was awarded the Ian Thorpe OAM Outstanding Achievement award for the athlete who has overcome the odds to achieve success.
Abood proved that, via persistence, determination and hard work, setbacks can be overcome when he qualified for his first Olympics in 2016 in the 50m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relay. Abood won a bronze medal in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay in Rio alongside James Magnussen, Cameron McEvoy and Kyle Chalmers, a remarkable achievement after narrowly missing Olympic selection in 2008 and 2012.
Other award winners included world number two moguls skier Matthew Graham (The Australian College of Physical Education Personal Excellence award), hockey player Paul Counsell (The University of Sydney Academic Excellence), winter sport mentor Ben Wordsworth (Southern Design Coach of the Year) and the track and field program for Sydney Olympic Park Authority Program of the Year.
In addition to the annual awards, recently retired Olympic gold medal winning diver Matthew Mitcham will be inducted into the ‘NSWIS Most Outstanding’. The award is presented on retirement to athletes that have made a unique personal contribution to their chosen sport, and have achieved outstanding international success.
Full list of awards winners (with sport and home suburb):
Sydney Olympic Park Authority Program of the Year: Track and Field
The Australian College of Physical Education Personal Excellence: Matthew Graham (Winter Sports) – Narara
The University of Sydney Academic Excellence: Paul Counsell (Hockey) – Helensburgh
Ian Thorpe OAM Outstanding Achievement: Matt Abood (Swimming) – Rose Bay
Mizuno Junior Athlete of the Year: Maddison Elliott (Swimming) – Gillieston Heights
NSW Institute of Sport Regional Athlete of the Year: Maddison Elliott (Swimming) – Gillieston Heights
Southern Design Coach of the Year: Ben Wordsworth (Winter Sports) – Queenscliff
Sydney City Toyota Female Athlete of the Year: Maddison Elliott (Swimming) – Gillieston Heights
ClubsNSW Male Athlete of the Year: Tom Burton (Sailing) – Manly Vale