A TEENAGE Tommy Bertrand would watch with awe as some of the region’s finest sports exports received South West Sport’s coveted chairperson’s award.
The achievements of the champions who took the stage served as inspiration for the aspiring rower, but also reminders of the dedication and training demands required to succeed at the elite level.
Almost a decade on, Bertrand is a world champion and last night became the latest addition to the chairperson’s award honour roll.
South West Sport presented the 24-year-old with its top honour in front of more than 300 people at the Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool for a stellar 2011 on the world stage.
Bertrand was a member of the Australian lightweight eight crew that won the 2011 world championship in Slovenia in September — 12 months after he won silver in the same event.
Bertrand said he felt honoured to be considered on par with previous award winners basketballer Nicole Hunt, cricketer Tim Ludeman, netballer Sarah Wall and rower, Sarah Richards.
“I went to a couple of the award ceremonies and it was always one I remembered, for people who had done well with their sport,” Bertrand said.
“I was pretty excited when I found out I had won.
“In the past a couple of Olympians got it and I certainly feel I’ve got a fair bit done in the sport now.”
A broken foot in October last year, just before trials for the 2012 Olympics, derailed Bertrand’s dream to compete at London this year.
But he returned to win selection in the Australian lightweight eight crew, which will attempt to defend its world championships crown in Bulgaria in August.
Bertrand is also about to return to university, studying primary school teaching through Open Universities Australia.
Bertrand said his best advice for emerging young athletes, many of whom were at last night’s awards function, was to ensure they enjoyed their competitive pursuits.
“I guess the thing that I’ve learnt and keeps me going is just make sure you’re still enjoying it,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what level you’re at or where you want to go, make sure you have a clear goal and don’t be afraid to have high goals.
“And keep on checking that you’re enjoying it.
“Sometimes you get so caught up in chasing what you’re after you forget what the sport is all about.
“At the end of the day it’s sport and it has to fit in with your life.”
Among other winners last night was the Western Region representative netball team, which won Netball Victoria’s state championships for the first time in 26 years.
Warrnambool triathlete Adam Cashmore clinched the open men’s award and talented netballer and basketballer Darcy Saunders won the open women’s award.