It was a night of celebration at Dewars Centre last night as some of Perthshire’s finest athletes, coaches, volunteers and clubs were recognised in the 27th annual Perth and Kinross Sports Awards. 2017 was a fantastic year for our area’s sportspeople who have excelled at local, regional, national and international level.
Provost Dennis Melloy welcomed guests before host for the evening Jim Spence took over the mic to introduce the nominees for the first award of the evening – the Disability Sports Person of the Year award sponsored by… Small City, Big Personality!
There were three outstanding candidates in contention for the award on the night; Ben Leitch, Freya Howgate and Innes Martin. All three had strong claims to win the prize but in the end the judging panel decided that wheelchair basketball star Ben Leitch was the winner – much to the delight of his proud and emotional mum, Paula.
Ben deservedly won the award after a glittering year in terms of personal and collective achievements. The St. John’s Academy pupil is a member of the U23 Great Britain men’s wheelchair basketball squad and also represents Scotland – scoring the winning basket for his country against the South of England to give the nation its first ever medal at the wheelchair basketball school games, one of the highlights of a fantastic year for the 5th year pupil.
After developing a rare bone cancer, Ben had surgery to remove a bone in his leg to kill the cancer and since then he’s managed to achieve great heights in wheelchair basketball. Ben managed to retain the award that he won back in 2016 after a glittering year in terms of personal and collective achievements. In the past twelve months, his list of achievements includes; Scottish Cup winner, Scottish playoffs winner, Scottish Regional silver medal, Scottish Regional MVP, Grampian Cup winner, Invitational Challenge silver medal winner, School Games U19s bronze medal winner and Dundee Dragons Young Player of the Year.
Ben’s grandad has been crowdfunding for a brand-new, specially adapted wheelchair which will help the basketballer to continue to represent his country to the highest level. He has currently raised just over half of the £4,500 target, and if you’d like to help you can donate to the cause here.
It was a great start to the evening which also included an inspirational guest speaker – endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont. Mark recalled some of the moments from his ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ challenge, which saw the Glenalmond-based cyclist smash the world record for cycling around the world. There was then an opportunity for the audience to ask the evening’s special guest some questions to gain an insight into what went on behind the scenes to help him achieve the incredible feat.
Keep your eyes peeled to the Small City Sports section on Tuesday where we’ll detail all of the night’s winners. In the meantime, we’d like to congratulate Ben Leitch on winning the Small City, Big Personality Disability Sports Person of the Year award. And congratulations to the two other finalists – Freya Howgate and Innes Martin – who both have excelled in their chosen disciplines over the past year.
Main image: Small City, Big Personality Disability Sports Person of the Year winner Ben Leitch being presented with his award by sports reporter, Gary Henderson. Credit – Fraser Band.
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