Men’s four receive Sports Journalists’ President’s Award from Sir Michael Parkinson

[img_assist|nid=1988|title=The men’s four celebrate Beijing gold|desc=Peter Spurrier|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=390]
Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed, Steve Williams and Tom James, all members of the Great Britain gold medal-winning men’s four at the 2008 Olympic Games, were the recipients of the Sports Journalist Association’s President’s Award.

The Camelot-sponsored quartet, represented at the Awards Ceremony by Reed and James, were presented with their Award by SJA President Sir Michael Parkinson.

Sir Michael said he had selected them for the Award in this special 60th anniversary year for the SJA because of the courage they had shown in winning gold despite the additional pressure placed on this GB boat by its illustrious history featuring past champions such as Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matt Pinsent.

In accepting the award James paid tribute to the benefit they had gained from the experience, knowledge and support of their coach Jurgen Grobler.

Reed, meanwhile, mentioned the boost they had been given in the early days of the Games by Nicole Cooke’s cycling gold medal. "It gave us confidence that we could do the same and that some of the gold medals in Beijing could have GB names on them rather than just Chinese, American or Russian or the like", he said.

Earlier swimming’s Rebecca Adlington and cycling’s Chris Hoy took the main honours as Sportsman and Woman of the Year but it was a spry 88-year-old from another Olympic era who stole the show.

Dorothy Tyler was among many special guests from the past 60 years of the Sports Writers’, lately the Sports Journalists’ Association, including HRH The Princess Royal, Baroness Campbell, chair of UK Sport, Lord Coe from LOCOG and more former champions and medallists than have been assembled in a very long time.

When Tyler was winning her two Olympic high jump silver medals, at the notorious 1936 Berlin Games and then in London 12 years later, women were not even invited to the SWA’s awards, first staged in 1949. So by way of a very belated acknowledgement of her achievements, Tyler was presented with the SJA Committee Award by Dame Kelly Holmes, who then led the near-500 lunch guests in an impromptu chorus of “Happy Birthday” for Tyler’s husband of 68 years, Richard, who was using the occasion to celebrate his 92nd birthday.

In a year when Manchester United won their third European Cup, Wales took the Six Nations title and Grand Slam, Joe Calzaghe won his 46th pro fight and Lewis Hamilton his first F1 world title, it was the Olympians and Paralympians who dominated the 2008 awards, the cyclists particularly.

As well as triple gold medallist Hoy taking the Sportsman of the Year award, Nicole Cooke – for a third year voted in the top three for Sportswoman of the Year – was presented by Mark Foster with the Pat Besford Trophy for the Performance of the Year in winning the Olympic road race title, former rower but now cyclist Rebecca Romero won the sponsors’ UK Sport Award for her achievement in winning track cycling gold four years after taking a rowing silver medal, Darren Kenny won the Disabled Sports Personality of the Year and Best International Newcomer was the sprint cyclist Jason Kenny.

All the cyclists were later summoned back on stage, together with 2007 Sportswoman of the Year and Olympic sprint gold medal-winner Victoria Pendleton, and performance director Dave Brailsford, to collect the Team of the Year Award.

Simon Clegg, the outgoing British Olympic Association chief executive and Britain’s chef de mission at seven Olympic Games, was given the JL Manning Award for his Outstanding Contribution to Sport – past winners of which have included Tony Jacklin, Ian McGeechan, Sir Bobby Charlton, Clive Woodward and Dave Brailsford.

GB Rowing was represented at the Awards ceremony as guests of team sponsors Siemens who had backed two tables for the British Association of Rowing Journalists (BARJ). Beijing Olympic and Paralympic medal winners Zac Purchase, Matthew Wells and Tom Aggar were VIP guests.

Additional copy from Steve Downes of the SJA.

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