And the Winner Is…

Sporting heroes were honoured at the annual RAF Benson 2012 Sports Personality of the Year Awards ceremony, with help from Olympic rower Peter Chambers and Team GB Hockey players Ashleigh Ball, Anne Panter, Chloe Rogers and Nicola White. Guests of honour also included the youngest ever British male Olympian, Mr Ken Lester, who resides in Wallingford with his wife Mrs Ros Lester, the current Mayor of Wallingford.

There were six awards up for grabs, covering categories including newcomer of the year, coach of the year, team of the year and the prestigious sports personality of the year. It was a hard fought competition with many deserving players and coaches across the Station.

Newcomer of the Year acknowledges an individual who is to their sport and who has already made a significant impact in terms of their achievement. This year the award was presented to Sgt Anne Murray for her amazing rowing achievements. Despite having only joined the rowing club six months ago, Anne has gone from strength to strength, from complete beginner to winning the inter-Service women’s novice coxed-four at the Joint Service Regatta!

Coach of the Year is awarded to the individual who has offered their time to coach others and who, in doing so, has had the most impact in their sport. This year the award was presented to Cpl Mark Simpson. Mark began last season managing the RAF Benson 2nd Football team and by the start of this year he had also taken over as 1st team manager, with his duties extending beyond management into coaching sessions. A typical match week could see Mark organising training, kitting, transport, referee bookings, arranging accounts for payments, picking two teams and dealing with up to 30 players and their pre-match administration. Away from the Station, Mark also runs two teams with Benson United, catering for both civilian and Service children, coaching the Under 10s and assisting with the Under 8s and Under 14s!

The Most Valued Person in Sport award is given to the individual who has played, coached and/or administered a sport to such a level that their contribution cannot be overlooked. This year the award was presented to Cpl Phil James-Morse for his outstanding work in reviving the RAF Benson Sub-Aqua Club. From restarting the financial accounts, relocating the RAF Benson rib from Brize Norton, improving the boat house and ensuring all kit met regulations, Phil has been pivotal to the success of the club. Perhaps his greatest achievement has been his support to the highly successful expedition to the Ascension Island, which would not have been anywhere near such a success, had Phil not been responsible for the copious amounts of administrative tasks!

The Long Service to Sport award is presented to the individual who has made an outstanding contribution to playing, coaching or administering a sport over a number of years. This year the award was presented to FS Jon Radcliffe for his outstanding contribution to the RAF Benson Lions FC. He started playing for the team in 2003 and his commitment has evolved ten-fold since, with him taking on the positions of chairman, treasurer and 1st team manager in 2007, whilst simultaneously entering a 2nd team into the league. Not one to rest on his laurels, Jon also expanded the club further this season with the RAF Benson Lionesses, providing the ladies of RAF Benson the same opportunities as the men. The club has thrived under Jon’s tenure and, now has over 130 members, five coaches and youth training.

The Team of the Year award is always hotly contested and is presented to the RAF Benson team with the most notable achievements over the year. This year the RAF Benson RFC was presented with the award for their outstanding season on the field, both in Rugby Union and League. The same players have effectively played competitive rugby for 11 months straight, having to adapt almost overnight from Union to League with the respective changes in laws and codes. The team, which won the RAF 10s Plate and were runners up in the 7s, are the most successful in the RAF in terms of the number of finals attended in the past 12 months. They are rightly viewed as one of the top teams in the RAF and they have consistently delivered success for RAF Benson throughout the year.

The final and most prestigious award of the Sports Personality of the Year is presented to the individual who has excelled in sport, espousing the RAF’s core values and being a fine ambassador for RAF Benson. The winner of this award was SAC Tasha Waite, who was presented with her award whilst deployed in Al Udeid, with a video of the presentation being played at the awards ceremony. Tasha has represented the Station at many sports throughout the year including netball, hockey, swimming and athletics. She has also stepped in to cover netball training sessions, organised a hockey tour to Cyprus, and assisted in raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund through a charity rugby versus netball afternoon. Even whilst deployed Tasha exudes an enthusiasm for sport and has become the quickest female to complete the Al Udeid challenge of 100-mile run, 345-mile cycle and 55-mile row. Her infectious enthusiasm for sport and fitness has inspired those around her to participate.

“It was great to celebrate the successes of Service men and women at RAF Benson in a range of sports. To meet so many people that have devoted time and energy to their chosen sports alongside their role in the Armed Forces was inspiring. Our congratulations to all the winners and thank you for such a memorable and enjoyable evening.” Ashleigh Ball, Team GB Hockey.

“Thank you all for making us feel so welcome at RAF Benson, we gained a real insight into your incredibly demanding lives in the Armed Forces. You are true heroes and it was an honour to reward your sporting achievements. A very special day and evening I will always remember!” Nicola White, Team GB Hockey.

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