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From canapes to champion gymnasts, here's how it went

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

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FROM the canapes and glasses of bubbly being handed out at the VIP reception to a display from a champion gymnast, there was more than a touch of stardust to this year's Torbay Sports Awards.

Held as a partnership between Torbay Council and the Herald Express, and in association with the Friends of South Devon College, the night was a triumph of the ability of all three groups.

Students from South Devon College were the ones handing out the cava and canapes – not that you could have guessed, such was their professionalism.

There were also four students from each of the college's basketball and rugby academies performing meet-and-greet functions and selling tickets for the silent auction.

A static bike was set up near the bar for brave guests to try and match the power output of cycling champion Mark Cavendish – but nobody got about the 1,000kWh mark, let alone the sprinter's 1,600kWh best.

And then there were the people.

From shortlisted nominees to guest speakers – some fulfilling both roles – you could hardly move without bumping into a recognisable face.

Rower Marcus Bateman looked the part in an official Team GB suit, while Commonwealth Games double medallist Katherine Endacott and Olympian Jo Pavey both donned glamorous outfits.

Perhaps the most familiar was Lawrie McMenemy MBE, who stepped up on stage with excellent compere David Fitzgerald to deliver a plea on behalf of his beloved Special Olympics.

When asked why he travels around promoting this worthy goal, McMenemy said it was because he got a cuddle at the end of it.

Also raising smiles and plenty of applause was Jay Thompson, current British U16 all-around champion and double European Youth Gymnastics Championship medal winner.

Thompson arrived in a suit, made a quick change into a lycra outfit made to look like a tuxedo, and then walked on his hands up to the stage.

He performed several dizzying tumbles on equipment set up for him on stage, and wowed guests with a show of sheer strength and balance on several pommel handles.

Afterwards, he conducted a breathless interview with Fitzgerald saying about what an incredible year it had been for him. It proved to get even better as Thompson followed his overall win in last year's awards by clinching the Young Sports Personality of the Year Award. And he was back in his suit by the time he received the trophy. After short speeches by Mayor of Torbay Gordon Oliver and Boyce Hatton managing partner Peter Lewis, McMenemy was invited on stage to speak about the Special Olympics.

Then, there was a break in proceedings for guests to be served a three-course dinner.

The gourmet menu started with tomato, carrot and coriander soup with crispy croutons, and was followed by a main course of roasted loin of farmhouse pork with braised cabbage, wild mushroom and a port wine sauce.

It was finished with strawberry and vanilla cheesecake accompanied by fudge cream, plus coffee and mints.

Then it was time for the awards, which included video highlights and a detailed list of achievements by each shortlisted nominee.

The winners received a trophy, a certificate and a specially-designed Herald Express front page acclaiming their achievements.

As a judge, I can attest that every category posed some difficult choices, and that everyone shortlisted had done more than enough to win.

I can also admin to hiding behind my notebook when it was my turn to have my comments broadcast on the big screen.

The quality of nominees was hugely impressive, and testament to the depth and breadth of sport in Torbay.

Yet there was unanimous agreement between the judges about the decision to choose Ken Robertson as overall winner.

For many, including me, it is these behind-the-scenes figures who are the real stars of local awards ceremonies such as this.

The volunteers, administrators, coaches and organisers aren't usually the ones picking up the medals, but without them there would be no sporting events to celebrate, and this evening was about them.

Long may that continue.

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