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Moorlands honours its sporting stars

Published on 31 December 2020

Sporting successes and achievements in fields as diverse as fencing and martial arts to athletics and rugby have been celebrated in the Moorlands once again this year - albeit a little differently than in previous years due to the Covid pandemic.

The Staffordshire Moorlands Sports Awards, co-ordinated by the District Council, showcase local sporting talent alongside the often unsung dedication of volunteers and those who offer behind-the-scenes support to our local sporting stars.

And whilst the health emergency has meant the usual prize giving ceremony couldn't go ahead, the Council was still keen to honour their achievements by delivering the awards and certificates to the winners.

Amongst the recipients are an athletics coach who can boast a podium-placed World Champion obstacle-courser amongst his successes; a gymnastics teacher, coach and judge with almost half-a-century of experience; a 14-year-old fencer who last year was placed fourth in England for boys in his age group; a hockey club who did not lose a single fixture in their first season; a busy volunteer who is responsible for the welfare of 26 football teams; a former hockey club captain who is now club chairman; a rugby and football player who has captained county sides in both sports; a junior Ju Jitsu team where 10 of the 15 competitors taking part in a national competition came away with medals; and a current World, European and British Masters Indoor Athletics Champion in his age category.

Councillor Mark Deaville, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Leisure and Sports, said: "This has been a year like no other but the power of sport and activity to unite us - and bring pleasure and a sense of normality to so many - remains unchanged.

"The achievements of our award winners are truly admirable and I'm delighted that despite all the challenges of 2020 we're still able to shine a light on their dedication, commitment and resilience. We have so much talent here in the Moorlands and I congratulate all our winners and everyone who was nominated.

"The Covid pandemic has demonstrated the ability that moving more and being active has to improve both our physical and mental wellbeing. I hope the inspirational stories of our winners this year, together with the undoubted benefits being active brings, will encourage even more of us to be more active in the new year - and who knows it could be you winning an award next time!"

The full list of winners is:

·         Coach- Dave Owen has a passion for running and athletics and has been coaching aspiring and accomplished junior and adult athletes for over 20 years. His coaching is behind the successes of many well-known Staffordshire athletes including Jason Burgess, who finished third in the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in 2019, triathlete Eden Schiller has competed for Britain on many occasions and athletes Johnathan Whilcok and Matt Clowes. Dave also set up, and organises, inter-school cross country events in the Moorlands.

·         Service to Sport - with nearly 50 years' experience as a teacher, coach and judge Linda Forrister's life in gymnastics has seen her running the country squad for over 10 years and, since 1975, she has been a judge for British Gymnastics at regional and national level. She is currently coaching at Stoke-on-Trent Gymnastics Centre where she has gymnasts working on the British Olympian elite pathway under her guidance. Linda set up Leek Gymnastics Centre in 1977 whilst working at St Edward's Middle School and continues to dedicate over 20 hours a week to the sport she loves.

·         Junior Sportsperson - starting at the age of 8, Wilfred Houston-Brown has worked hard to master the skills needed for fencing at his sessions with Four of Clubs Fencing Club who train at Brough Park Leisure Centre. He started competing at the age of 10 qualifying to represent the West Midlands at the British Youth Championships in the U12 boy's category. By 2019 Wilfred was ranked fourth in England for boys in his age group and went on to represent England in January this year at the international U14 competition in Finland. He continues to work hard and is aiming for selection to the GBR U17s team.

·         Club / Team - Abbotsholme Hockey Club was founded in 2017 by a teacher at Abbotsholme School who wanted to offer students an opportunity to play competitive hockey. The team, a mix of parents, students, staff and the community, entered the Staffordshire Ladies Hockey Division 4 not knowing what to expect and they didn't lose a single fixture in their first season winning promotion to division 3. The junior players went on to win division 3 and continue to thrive on the experience of the more senior players. The club now hopes to build a second ladies team and a men's section.

·         Volunteer - Leek Town FC's Georgina Chandler is the club's Welfare Officer - a very busy role which involves looking after the welfare of three adult teams; two ability counts teams; eight junior boys teams; seven junior girls teams; and six mini boys teams. Her role includes making sure qualifications are up-to-date for all coaches and helpers and ensuring any helpers are DBS checked. As if that wasn't enough, Georgina also ran the hugely successful 'Wildcats' scheme last year which saw over 50 girls attending weekly training sessions from which three news girls teams were formed. She continues to run weekly training sessions for girls alongside the Mini Blues and is head of girl's section.

·         Volunteer - Andy Sprag has been involved with Leek Hockey Club since 1988. He started playing for the club as a boy and has held many roles since then including five years as captain, 17 years as secretary and six years as child protection officer. More recently Andy has taken over the role of club chairman and has worked hard to encourage more members of the club to volunteer and to take more control within the club by joining the management committee. He has also been responsible for acquiring £100,000 in grant funding to replace the astro carpet and the floodlights to ensure the club remains on the map as a centre of hockey in the Midlands.

·         Junior Team - in 2019 Tatsu Ju Jitsu's junior team competed in the Amateur Martial Association Nationals in Manchester where 10 of the 15 members entered came away with medals - 2 golds, 2 silvers and 6 bronzes - plus the team spirit award for fair play and encouragement. The juniors are very supportive of each other and when new students are selected for the squad they all help settle players down.

·         Senior Sportsperson - last year Dean Richardson set himself the goal of becoming World and British Masters Indoor Athletic Champion in the M45 division for the 1500m - and he achieved just that! The M45 division is for male athletes that have reached the age of 45 but are not yet 50. He fits his training in around a busy family life and working as a volunteer manager of the Milton Hurricanes junior football team. Dean is the current reigning World, European and British Masters Indoor Athletics World Champion and in 2019 he represented GB in Poland winning the gold medal in the M45 1500m category. His achievements have inspired his wife to take up running and compete in last year's London Marathon.