Athlete Emma Leask was last night named the 2013 Shetland Sports Awards Sportsperson of the Year.
The middle distance runner collected the honour in recognition of her gold medal winning performances in Bermuda during the NatWest Island Games and her achievement in forcing her way in to the Scottish athletics squad.
After the ceremony, which was held in the Clickimin Leisure Complex’s bowls hall and was attended by 150 people Leask said she was “so delighted” to receive the recognition of fellow Shetlanders.
The dual achievements of that gold in Bermuda and representing Scotland had made it a season to remember, she said.
Referring to the run in the Bermudan heat in July Leask said: “It was just a relief. I just wanted to do Shetland proud and win the gold again.”
The sportsperson of the year award capped that. She said “it shows all the hard work has paid off”, adding that to be recognised in Shetland for her achievements was particularly special.
Leask was presented with her award by the political leader of Shetland Islands Council, Gary Robinson. He had told the audience that the judges had faced the most difficult task in choosing a sportsperson of the year since the awards were launched seven years ago.
That meant there were four nominees for the title, instead of the usual three. Leask had been up against swimmers Andrea Strachan and Felix Gifford and triathlete Pete Fenwick and she had won the award by the “narrowest of margins”, said Mr Robinson.
There was also tough competition for the Team of the Year Award, with the promotion-winning Shetland Rugby Team, record-breaking Shetland Island Games Swim Team and medal-winning Shetland Triathlon Team all vying for the title.
It was the rugby team who claimed the award and spokesman Bryan Leask said it was recognition for the time and effort that goes into competing in a national competition on a weekly basis.
Achieving promotion to the the RBS Caledonia League Division 2 North was “huge” said Mr Leask. “It might be we have a strong home team but to go away and consistently win away, that is what you have to achieve. It was huge.
“We also got to the semi-final of the national cup and won the inter-county. It was a successful year.”
If the awards for Leask and the rugby club were well received the biggest ovation of the night was when Rhoda Polson was named the winner of the Lifetime Endeavour Award in recognition of the years of dedication and support she has provided to generations of sportspeople.
Everyone in the hall rose to their feet as Ms Polson walked to the stage to collect the award from Tam Rowley, himself a great supporter of sport in the isles. She told compere, MSP Tavish Scott, that she was “just gobsmacked”.
The presentation of the award was a fitting end to the ceremony and afterwards Ms Polson told The Shetland Times: “It means an awful lot because it is from home. It is the folk in here [the audience], there were swimmers there that I taught and athletes that I held the stop watch for them.
“Getting it [the award] from your home place makes a difference.” She said that the most satisfaction she got from sport was when Shetland enjoyed success in the inter-county competitions.
For the second consecutive year Zoe Buchanan won the Young Sportsperson of the Year Award after her gold medal successes at the World Transplant Games in South Africa and at the British Transplant Games in Sheffield.
She was visibly emotional and summed up her mood with a simple, “wow!”. The other nominees were footballer Ryan Thomason and athlete and karate black belt Aidan Jarmson, who had also been part of an energetic demonstration by the Shetland Budokai Karate Club during the event.
In the Young Team of the Year category Shetland under-18 Athletics Team scooped the prize ahead of the the Junior Inter-county Hockey Team and the Junior Inter-county Swim Team. There was a large contingent from the athletics squad in the audience, who were thrilled to climb on to the stage together as Eoin Leask accepted the award. He said it was “unexpected” but that all those involved were thrilled.
Earlier in the night the sportscotland coach of the year winners were presented with their awards by regional coaching and volunteer manager Jan Stander.
They were: Young Volunteer of the Year, Tom Jamieson; Technical Official of the Year, Audrey Leask; Disability Coach of the Year, Dawn McKenzie; Young Persons Coach of the Year, Glenn Gilfillan; Young Coach of the Year, Emma Inkster and Vicky Anderson; Performance Coach of the Year, Andy Alderman; Development Coach of the Year, Petur Petursson and Community Coach of the Year John Ward.
Petur Petursson was chosen as the Shetland Coach of the Year. He was not present at the ceremony but his daughter Megan Petusdottir collected the award on his behalf and in a statement said that Petursson was humbled by the nomination and that coaching children and adults gave him “incredible pleasure every day”.
For full coverage of the Sports Awards, including interviews and more photographs, see Friday’s Shetland Times.