Natalie Kane and Mark Nesbitt were the beau and belle of the ball as they picked up the Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year awards.
Ballyvally archer Nesbitt picked up the award for the third successive year after winning the European Commonwealth Championships, finishing fifth at the European Field Championships andsixth at the World Indoor Series.
“It’s a fantastic feeling. I wasn’t expecting to win the award for the third year in a row so I’m overwhelmed. I couldn’t ask for anymore support from the council,” he told the ‘LEADER.’
“I was so surprised to win it because there is so much talent out in the district.”
Mark is preparing to launch another bid for the 2014 award with another successful year.
“I’ll hopefully make the Ireland team for the World Championships in Croatia in August,” he said.
“Hopefully I’ll medal if everything goes to plan. I’m confident that I can go out any day of the week and perform well at home so there should be no difference in doing it here and doing it out there.
“It depends on the day though. Sometimes you get a good day and sometimes you get a bad day.”
Ballyvally Archery Club also picked up the Club of the Year award in recognition of their development.
“The club is fantastic,” said Nesbitt.
“They’re my support network. They’re very supportive of me and very supportive of everyone in the community. They do a lot for the people of Banbridge. I couldn’t ask for any more at my doorstep.”
Ballyvally’s Ruth Gilmour was runner-up in Spotswoman of the Year, second only to Loughbrickland motocross rider Natalie Kane.
The 22 year-old was fourth in the World Championship Series in 2013 and also snatched the British Grand Prix. After picking up the award, she spoke to the ‘LEADER.’
“It feels really good,” she said.
“I really appreciate everyone who voted to give me it. In Banbridge, Ireland and Britain, there aren’t many women motocross riders so I really appreciate getting the award. I was up against really good competition so a huge thank-you to everyone who decided to give me this award.”
The HM Plant KTM rider began her 2014 Women’s World Championship campaign in Qatar recently, finishing second overall.
Despite suffering over 10 wrist fractures already as well as leg, shoulder and collarbone breaks, Kane shows little fear with respect to the dangers of her sport.
She said: “People say it’s dangerous but I just look at it with the attitude that you could fall of the curb and bump your head or anything. Whatever’s meant to be will be.
“When you get into it, it’s a really enjoyable sport and you get to meet so many new people. I have so many friends all over the world that I would never have met otherwise.
“It’s now my job but it’s also a hobby. I’m lucky to have the chance to be able to travel the world and meet so many different people.”
Meanwhile, for Banbridge High School PE teacher Jeannie Bell picked up the Services to Sport award for her 37 years coaching netball, hockey and athletics.
Ulster and Ireland rugby’s Rory Best got the Special Recognition Award.
There were also awards for Banbridge District’s Special Olympic Athletes of the Year, who all won gold medals at the Ulster Regional Games and will go on to represent the province at the All Ireland games in Limerick in June.
They were Philip Patton (aquatics, athletics, table tennis, golf), Emma Higgins (athletics), Mark Blevins (bocce), Denise Fegan (bocce), Darren McClatchey (bocce), Nicholas Grant (bocce and table tennis), Stefan McGrath (bocce and table tennis), Paul Ewbanks (gymnastics), Tony Lunny (gymnastics) and David Ochiltree (softball).