Champions honoured at awards

By Jared Smith

They started as products of their Wanganui environment and when they became champions they made Wanganui a product of themselves.

While much of the attention of Friday night's 2012 Property Brokers/Rivercity Livestock Ltd Wanganui Sports Awards focused on the achievements of the town's Olympians, there were several proud performers on the lesser known stages who were given their due.

It proved a popular call when husband and wife jetsprinting world champions Leighton and Kellie Minnell stepped forward to accept the Ali Arc Senior Team of the Year trophy.

"It's the only time I can legitimately tell him where to go," Kellie said of her grinning husband.

Both on stage and then later at the bar where they were mobbed by wellwishers, the couple want to put emphasis on the efforts of the guys behind them.

It's a crew which does everything from fine tuning their engines to pushing the boat off the trailer.

When that work is done, racing is the easy bit, said Leighton.

"It's awesome to do a sport and get to go around the world. We're all about a team.

"What we've got here in Wanganui with the jet boat park is world class."

Like many of the other champions of the night, he said the motivation is not in the accolades - it's being driven by knowing in yourself that you're the best.

"To finish first, first you must finish."

As the first Superboat crew to win all six New Zealand National Championship rounds last season, then placing first in the UIM World Series, the couple will be defending their national title in the opening round in Wanganui on December 27.

Breaking up the sportsperson categories into international and national success also found favour with the two inaugural national recipients.

Collegiate sprinter Tom Symes thought he had dodged the bullet of public speaking when he let team mate William Cowper take the microphone as they accepted the Treadwell Gordon Junior Team of the Year prize for their four-man 400m relay team winning the New Zealand secondary schools championship.

However, moments later Symes was back on the dais to collect the Dub Dee See Youth Committee national junior sportsperson award.

His contribution to the 400m team, which he concurred was a very special group of young men, was combined with an individual second in the 400m NZSS run, to earn him the accolade.

Symes liked it that the awards now encouraged those in lesser sports or at school level by having that national focus.

"Because of obviously a few internationals [in the other section], you look a lot better.

"It's a good thing."

He also heaped praise on Wanganui athletics guru Alec McNabb, who was up for Mars Petcare coach of the year but missed out to outstanding New Zealand cycling coach Dayle Cheatley.

"[Alec's] an inspiring coach, without him I don't know where we'd be."

Both Symes and Cowper are off to Auckland University of Technology next year, where Symes will continue his athletics while pursuing a sport and recreation degree.

National Jockey Premiership winner Lisa Allpress got great motivation to take into her winning New Zealand Cup ride in Christchurch on Saturday when she was named the first NZCT national senior sportsperson winner.

"Obviously I'm rapt they felt fit to make another award. Thanks to the Wanganui Jockey Club for nominating me."

Allpress rode 159 winners in a gruelling 2011/12 season, admitting even she never felt like she was running hot as Te Akau's Matt Cameron went neck and neck with her right down to the final two weeks for the premiership.

For Allpress, who joked she'd like to ride eight winners on Saturday, the difference between reaching the top or settling for second was simply self motivation.

"If you have a goal to achieve that's what you have to achieve."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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