Women’s World Motocross champion Courtney Duncan has some simple advice for anyone trying a new sport – “give it a go and have fun, that is the most important thing.”
The Palmerston rider dished out that advice as she accepted the supreme award at the Network Waitaki Sports Awards on Monday night, after earlier picking up the sportswoman of the year title.
“It’s really good to be here and share this award with you all,” the 24-year-old told the crowd at the Waitaki Recreation Centre.
“It’s really cool to be able to showcase the talent we have here in the region.”
Duncan put injury and misfortune behind her to finally be crowned world champion in 2019, winning the penultimate race of the season in Turkey in September.
“That 10 seconds after the finish line I went numb,” she said.
“I expected it to happen a lot sooner than it did.
“But people like to see an athlete who has gone through the struggle.”
Duncan held off stiff competition for the supreme award from Southern Steel netballer Taneisha Fifita (junior sportswoman of the year) and New Zealand under-23 rower Mark Taylor (sportsman of the year).
Oamaru Rowing Club coach Owen Gould accepted the sportsman of the year award on Taylor’s behalf, and paid tribute to the “very special young man”.
“He sets goals and usually achieves them,” Gould said.
“When he was overseas . . . it was nothing for him to just ring up.”
Fifita was also unable to attend the award ceremony in person due to her Southern Steel commitments, but the former Waitaki Girls’ High School thanked the many North Otago coaches and supporters who had help her achieve her goal of becoming a professional netballer.
In a the tightly-contested junior sportsman of the year category, western horse rider Stuart Beattie claimed the title ahead of bull-rider Loche Cowan, squash player Liam Direen, runner Max Yanzick and trapshooter Clark Ewing.
Like many of the athletes receiving awards, Beattie faces an uncertain sporting schedule in 2020 with restrictions in the wake of Covid-19.
The threat of the virus meant there were none of the usual handshakes and hugs that normally accompany awards ceremonies.
It was a big night for North Otago Rugby as the Meads Cup-winning Heartland team won team of the year, Jason Forrest won coach of the year, and former coach John Tito received the Denis Birtles Memorial service to sport award.
Tito, who coached North Otago when it challenged Auckland for the Ranfurly Shield in 1993, honoured his club, Excelsior.
“I enjoy everything about club rugby,” Tito said.
“It is the heart and soul of North Otago rugby.
“My club has given me everything.”
In their speeches, Forrest and North Otago captain Sam Sturgess declared their desire for back-to-back Meads Cup titles, something the union has not achieved before.
Ultra runner Nicola Kirkman was named masters sportsperson of the year, and young netball umpire Holly Beazer was awarded the Stewart Mitchell official in sport award.
North Otago swimmer Liam Bartley, who medalled in all three events he entered at the Special Olympics World Summer Games, won the athlete with a disability award, while trampolinist Charlotte Lane (female) and athletics and hockey star Jacob Robinson (male) claimed the emerging talent awards.
The Network Waitaki-sponsored awards judges were Mitch McRae (Sport Waitaki co-ordinator), Trevor James (administrator), Diane Talanoa (Waitaki Community Recreation Centre manager), Mark Julius (Allied Press Oamaru advertising manager ), Adair Craik (accountant and multisport athlete) and Nicki Paterson (Otago Secondary Schools Sports Association director).