WORLD, national and state champions featured among top south-west athletes whose achievements took centre stage this week.
More than 300 people packed Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre for South West Sport’s 2013 awards function on Wednesday night.
The evening recognised the achievements of home-grown competitors and teams whose passion for their sports had lifted them to the top.
Among those was Dundonnell croquet champion Robert Fletcher, 20, whose success in association croquet in 2013 have made history.
Fletcher became the first Australian and the youngest player to win a world championship when he triumphed in London last August.
The Lismore Croquet Club member went through the tournament unbeaten and defeated New Zealander Paddy Chapman 3-0 in the decider.
He also won the sport’s highest individual honour in Australia, the Gold Medal, in Adelaide, going undefeated in a double round-robin.
Australian and Victorian representation also featured on a resume which is the envy of croquet players across the country.
The win earned Fletcher the South West Sport open male athlete of the year award, ahead of six other nominees.
The open female athlete of the year honour went to Tarrington horsewoman Elizabeth Lawrence, who represented Australia at carriage driving.
Lawrence scored two wins and two third placings at international events in the United Kingdom, the highlight of her regular trips to Europe.
Hamilton tennis player Sue Walter, the masters athlete of the year, is another who took her talents to the international stage last year.
Walter reached the semi-finals in the women’s 60-65 years singles and doubles at the ITF super senior world championships in Austria.
She also scored a win on the super seniors tennis circuit, in the women’s 60-65 years doubles in Switzerland and was runner-up in the singles.
Bookaar clay target shooter Penny Smith’s breakthrough year earned her the junior female athlete of the year accolade.
Smith placed seventh in the junior girls’ section at ISSF world championships in Peru and almost snatched a podium finish at a world cup event in Spain.
Closer to home, she won gold at ISSF Australian youth nationals and was runner-up at Oceania championships, both at junior girls’ level.
Warrnambool water-skier Adam Sedgley enjoyed a similar successful year on the water.
Sedgley claimed gold in the under 14 boys’ slalom at national championships at Port Macquarie, setting a new a personal best of four-and-a-half buoys at 55km/h.
He was runner-up at state championships in the Latrobe Valley and claimed two podium finishes at a Warrnambool Water-Ski Club competition.
Sedgley, who began water-skiing when he was seven, said he improved “a fair bit over the year”.
“At the start I didn’t know what to do and gradually I got a little bit better and met some people and they helped me a lot,” he said.
Other award winners included EKB Fitness and Aerobics’ Emma Bellman, of Warrnambool, who took out the elite coach award.
And Warrnambool boccia player Danny Byrne, who won a silver medal at state titles and competed at national level and in New Zealand, took out the athlete with a disability award.
Byrne, who also won bronze at the 2014 state titles this month, hopes to represent Australia at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
South West Sport 2013 award winners
Chairperson’s award: Amy Lewis (basketball)
Open male: Robert Fletcher (croquet)
Open female: Elizabeth Lawrence (equestrian)
Junior male: Adam Sedgley (water-skiing)
Junior female: Penny Smith (shooting)
Masters: Sue Walter (tennis)
Athletes with a disability: Danny Byrne (boccia)
Open team: Shane Cashill and Brendan Keane (indoor bowls)
Intermediate team: Jordan Rooke and Jessica Brunt (aerobics)
Junior team: Emma’s Angels (aerobics)
Junior team achievement: St Joseph’s Primary School (football, netball, basketball)
Elite coach: Emma Bellman (aerobics)
Development coach: Bernie Harris, Daniel Hayes and Jacob Rhodes (football); Eric O’Donnell (croquet); Gus Wilson and Tim Thorp (BMX); Mark Gercovich (various)
Club development: Portland Little Athletics Centre; Warrnambool and District Cricket Association; Warrnambool and District Cricket Association’s junior program.
Inclusive club development: Funakoshi Karate at Camperdown and Terang; Inspiring Opportunities (swimming); Warrnambool Springers (gymnastics)
Achievement awards: 3WAY FM commentary team (football); Frank McKenzie (karate); John and Margaret Haberfield (indoor bowls); Kylie Thulborn (various); Nicholas Frampton (cricket); Thomas Horsten (football umpiring)
Volunteers: Andrew McGrath and Gordon Gunn (table tennis); Anthony Collins, Barry Wilson, Lainie Ryan, Maddy Jasper and Sue Anson (BMX); Brian Medew, David Rout and Gary MacLean (cricket); Jenny Elz and Jodie Hutchins (hockey); John O’Connor (soccer); Pat Giblin (lawn bowls); Simeon Balmer (surf lifesaving)