THE prestigious Sport Pembrokeshire awards ceremony hosted at Folly Farm returned in November after a year away due to the pandemic, and it was a real pleasure to attend and hand out some of the awards to the well deserving winners and runners-up, writes Harry Jamshidian.

Despite a reduced audience and regulations still in place, which sadly meant the farm was closed, the ceremony was conducted with professionalism and panache as the achievements of local sportspeople, coaches and volunteers were celebrated.

Western Telegraph: All the winners and finalists at the Pembrokeshire Sports Awards 2021All the winners and finalists at the Pembrokeshire Sports Awards 2021

In the 15th ceremony, hosted by Pembrokeshire County Councillor Cris Tomos and the voice of sport in the county Bill Carne, one of the highlights of the night was getting to hand an award to 93-year-old Valerie Coleman, who won the Special Achievement Award, and who is breaking records in her age group in rowing, at distances up to 2,000m.

The ceremony highlighted not only the high standard but also the strong pedigree and serious nature with which sport is held within the county at grass roots level.

Below is a list of the winners and runners-up from each category.

Western Telegraph: The Pembrokeshire Sports Awards was back this yearThe Pembrokeshire Sports Awards was back this year

The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award was Paula Craig MBE, cyclist, former runner, Para triathlete and Channel swimmer.

The award was presented by Geoff Williams, retired Head of BBC Sport Wales, who said of Paula: “Tonight’s recipient is an inspirational figure who epitomises talent, sportsmanship and sheer resilience.

“As an elite athlete she previously ran the London Marathon six times with a personal best of 2 hours 57 minutes, and was twice a member of the winning women’s team.

“Then, in 2001, while training for the Triathlete World Championship, Paula was knocked off her bike by a car. Her spinal cord was severed.

“However, she returned to the event 11 months after her accident, becoming the first woman to have competed as a non disabled and disabled athlete. She finished third behind Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and went on to compete in the triathlon World Championships in 2002, 2003 and 2005 winning the gold medal in each.

“Paula also resumed her career with the Metropolitan Police, climbing through the ranks to become a detective inspector.

“After several bone infections, which prevented her from using her racing chair, she turned to open water swimming including The Solent Swim, from Southampton to the Isle of Wight.

“This year she was hoping to become the first person with a complete spinal cord injury to swim the English Channel. The event involves swimming for an hour at a time in rotation with other team members.

“Unfortunately, bad weather disrupted the expedition in October and it has been rescheduled for next August.

“Paula was awarded an MBE for her services to policing in 2005 and has become a leading motivational speaker. She volunteers at her local Macmillan centre, school and specialist sports college for pupils with severe learning difficulties.

“She is a true role model.”

The Special Achievement Award, presented by the chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr Mike James, was won by Valerie Coleman of Fishguard.

Not only is Valerie the Welsh, British, Scottish, and World champion in her age group for indoor rowing, she has achieved this astonishing feat since joining Fishguard and Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club in March last year – and all this in her nineties.

Born in 1928, Valerie is well known in Fishguard and Goodwick for her commitment to fitness, having swum and taken part in yoga, pilates and group walks for many years.

However three years ago - two weeks after her ninetieth birthday - she fell and broke her hip. Val fought hard to regain her fitness and in March 2020, she joined Fishguard and Goodwick Jemima Rowing.

The following winter, she participated in virtual national and international competitions and wiped the board - establishing herself as Welsh, Scottish, British and World Champion in the 2,000m and 500m distances - frequently breaking her own records.

Sport Pembrokeshire also recognised Monkton Priory Community School for its proactive commitment to the health and wellbeing of their pupils and staff.

Sponsored by Sport Wales, the ‘School Award’ was presented by Steven Richards-Downes, director of education who said:

“Monkton School has pupil wellbeing at the heart of everything they do. Their ‘Succeeding through Sport’ programme provides pupils with a new sport each month comprising activities benefiting both mental and physical health. 

“Physical literacy is embedded in the whole school and outdoor learning is delivered across the curriculum. All pupils in the school have access to an extensive range of activities in both PE lessons, enrichment sessions and after school clubs and attend a variety of tournaments.

“This term the school has a disability focus where classes participated in Boccia for the whole school competition to celebrate National Boccia Day and received disability inclusion sessions.

“The school has also launched a new parental health and wellbeing programme and staff well-being is not forgotten either, with weekly HIIT circuit sessions.”

Western Telegraph: Pembrokeshire Sports Awards celebrates the best of sporting achievement in the countyPembrokeshire Sports Awards celebrates the best of sporting achievement in the county

Gracie Griffiths won Girls (U16) Sporting Achievement of the Year with 10-year-old local surfer Josie Hawke and Pembrokeshire Harriers Athletics Club member Lucy Wintle runners-up.

Gracie recently won the gold medal whilst representing Welsh Schools at the Schools International Athletics Board meeting in Derby.

She also set a personal best and broke the Welsh record, where she was named athlete of the meeting.

She is ranked number one at 3000m walk and third for under-17 in the 5000m walk.

She has recently completed a "Leading Athletics Course" so she can assist in coaching younger athletes.

The Boys (U16) Sporting Achievement was won by Dafydd Pawlett with international hockey player Alastair Dyer and Milford Haven School’s all round sporting exemplar Owen Rickard runners-up.

Dafydd is ranked number two in UK for U17 shot putt and he has represented Wales and Great Britain this year, as well as being chosen by Team GB & NI under 20’s development squad at the age of 16.

Dafydd has had an amazing year competing in the shot putt for Pembrokeshire Harriers, Wales and Great Britain.

In August 2021 he represented GB under 20s at the Manchester International and won gold.

He also won gold at the UK schools international and a silver representing Wales at the Welsh schools at the Schools International Athletics board meeting in Derby.

Club of the Year went to Fishguard & Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club with Haverfordwest Tennis Club and Pembroke Dock Cricket Club runners-up.

Fishguard & Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club has had a busy year and has grown and developed the sport.

In November 2020 club members competed in The Welsh and Scottish Combined Virtual Indoor Rowing Championships achieving nine individual gold medals including two PR3PD Paralympic medals in the Men and Women Welsh team championships.

The club had 10 athletes competing in the British Championships.

The World Championships in January was another success with two World Records for Gaynor Martin and Val Coleman.

The club have also established a working relationship with Ysgol Bro Gwaun and their success on the water this year has included Beach Sprints Gold and Bronze medal for Wales.

Western Telegraph: Pembrokeshire Sports Awards celebrates the best of sporting achievement in the countyPembrokeshire Sports Awards celebrates the best of sporting achievement in the county

Disability Sport Award went to Michael Jenkins with disability cricketer Leon Davies and Libi Phillips runners-up.

Michael is currently ranked number one in UK for U17 in the F38 discus and shot-putt category.

He had a phenomenal year in athletics not only because he is ranked number one for F38 classification for discus and shot putt but also number one for all U17 discus competitions.

Most recently Michael won the gold medal at the Schools international Athletics Board meeting and to round things off in fantastic fashion he was also named Welsh male athlete of the games.

Young Volunteer of the Year went to Olivia Probert with Platinum Young Ambassador Adele Bevan and swimming coach Ffion Williams runners-up.

Olivia is a keen sportswoman who takes part in netball and cricket outside school, hockey and rugby for school. 

She is a newly appointed young ambassador at Henry Tudor School and she has been fulfilling her role by assisting with sports clubs after school, coaching, organising activities on ‘Well-being Fridays’ as well as taking part in sporting clubs inside and outside of school.

Junior (U16) Team Achievement went to the Pembrokeshire Harriers SIAB Team with Haverfordwest RFC U9s and St Ishmaels Cricket U11s runners-up.

Nine Pembrokeshire Harriers’ athletes represented Welsh Schools at the Schools International Athletics Board competition in Derby in September 2021, which was the largest number of athletes from any club in Wales.

Notable results included Gracie Griffiths who won gold in the 3000m race walk, setting a new Welsh U17 record, Michael Jenkins (who won gold in the discus) and Dafydd Pawlett, who won silver for shot putt.

Unsung Hero was won by Lukas Gamble, with Haverfordwest Tennis Club member Sarah Keogh and Neyland Club chairman Simon Morgan runners-up.

Lukas has given so much to Kilgetty AFC and his current list of jobs include chairman, secretary, committee organiser, groundsman, first team coach, lead girls coach, welfare officer, Covid officer, lead junior coach as well as other jobs!

Without his dedication the club would surely have gone under long before now.

After the lockdown ended he was approached by some parents to restart the girls section and the club now has more than 80 girls involved.

Western Telegraph: Pembrokeshire Sports Awards celebrates the best of sporting achievement in the countyPembrokeshire Sports Awards celebrates the best of sporting achievement in the county

Team Achievement of the Year went to Neyland CC Firsts with Cresselly Cricket Club Ladies team and Saundersfoot Bowls Club over 55s runner’s-up.

Neyland 1st eleven had the most successful-ever season in its history spanning 132 years.

The League and Harrison Allen double was achieved. The league title was won on the last game of the season in a game which showed the resilience and never say die attitude of the team.

In the National Village Cup they came through the regional rounds and three long away trips before bowing out one game from a Lord’s Final.

In the Welsh Cup they reached the last eight against Wales’ very best. It shows that Neyland Cricket Club can compete with the best in Wales and England.

Male Sporting Achievement went to FIR international Stephen Varney with international hockey player Euan Dyer and Llangwm fast bowler Joe Phillips runners-up.

After finishing school at 16 Stephen attended Hartpury College and was part of the Gloucester Academy. He then went on to play for Gloucester Rugby, Italy U18 and U20 before making his full debut for Italy, qualifying through his Italian grandparents.

Stephen has had a remarkable 12 months, from playing in the English Premiership with Gloucester Rugby to making his International debut for Italy as a replacement in the Nations Autumn Cup and gaining his first full cap against Wales in the same competition as part of his achieving seven caps in the last 12 months.

Female Sporting Achievement went to Lisa Neumann with ultra runner Sanna Duthie and Valerie Coleman runners-up.

Lisa is definitely worthy of her win due to her undeniable commitment to Women’s Welsh Rugby throughout the last year.

Everything Lisa does is to put herself in the best position to represent Wales and she was not only selected as part of the Wales Women’s Six Nations 2021 squad but started and played every game - and was one of their key players.

She was chosen for the Six Nations Team of the Tournament following her outstanding performance across the campaign.

Lisa scored one of the only tries in the Women’s Six Nations’ campaign and continues to inspire women and young girls across Wales to pick up a ball and start playing rugby.

Club Organiser of the Year went to Brian Millard with Gareth Bennett of Haverfordwest Seals Swimming club and Naomi Dalton of Merlins Bridge Boxing Club runners-up.

Brian is the main coach for the club Fishguard Thunderbolts, which is a disabled sports club.

He gives his time twice a week for football and multi sports and also takes the club to various sporting events. 

Coach of the Year went to Chris McEwen with Pembrokeshire Harriers' Simon Lewis and rugby coach Simon Gardiner runners-up.

Chris is a coach at Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Boxing club and has been working with children with disabilities in Ysgol Henry Tudor.      

Chris in particular has had a positive influence on pupils who have disabilities and has adapted the boxing to suit their needs.

He also works with mainstream pupils in helping them to control their emotions and teaching them to place their anger into their movements at the gym only, as well as improving their social etiquette, manners, behaviour and boxing skills.

Congratulations from the Western Telegraph to everyone who participated.