MORE than 300 East Hampshire sportsmen, women and volunteers who support them were recognised at the sixth annual East Hampshire District Council Sports Awards ceremony at Old Thorns Manor Hotel last week.

Guest speaker Alex Danson, part of Team GB’s gold medal-winning hockey team at last summer’s Rio Olympics, gave the audience an inspirational talk about her rise to the top.

Originally from Alton, Alex recalled her journey which started when she was just 13 playing for Alton Hockey Club. A year later, she was selected for the England under-16 team and trained hard every day to be accepted.

“I learned my first lesson at that age. I got selected not because I was the best, but I because was working the hardest,” she said. “I am very competitive and I wanted to be in the England team so badly, so I put all my efforts into my training.”

Alex has been a member of the England and Great Britain women’s field hockey team since making her England debut in October 2002 against Germany.

“The GB women’s hockey team was going for gold at the London Olympics in 2012 but we ended up getting a bronze medal, which felt like gold at the time,” she said.

“But we never gave up, we still believed we could do better and we as a team were driven, focused and determined to succeed.”

Alex also recalled her memories from that memorable month in Brazil last summer.

“There will be times when things don’t work out the way you have planned them, but never give up chasing your dream,” she said. “I had a goal which I desperately wanted to achieve and I will never forget that moment, when I knew we had won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics!”

Alex, 31, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to hockey, then sat back to listen to some of the awe-inspiring tales of the 2017 East Hampshire Sports Award winners.

The Portfolio Holder award was presented to all three nominees, Horndean Youth FC?U10s Reds, EJ Magoncia, from Bordon, and Ethan Jones, from Alton, the latter two members of Swallows Trampoline Club.

Despite having severe autism, epilepsy and suffering from a severe anxiety condition that can leave him unable to speak, EJ’s ability has proved outstanding. He was pronounced South East’s Satellite Club participant of 2016, visited the Houses of Parliament last October, and received an award presented by East Hampshire’s Tory MP Damian Hinds.

Ethan joined the club a year ago after trying a trampolining disability taster session and his personal achievements have been to improve his coordination, confidence, self-esteem and social skills.

Based in Horndean, Hannah’s Holiday Home charity supports children with cancer and life-limiting illness and the U10s Reds raised £1,472.50, which will pay for six families to enjoy a holiday there.

The School Team of the Year award went to Four Marks Primary School Girls cricket team, who were introduced to the sport by coach Brian King, who sadly passed away a few weeks before the county finals.

But the girls were desperate to reach the South East regional finals and after a tough battle were able to dedicate their Hampshire finals win to their late coach and mentor.

Amery Hill Year 11 rugby team, from Alton, and Horndean Junior School athletics team were the runners-up.

Alton Hockey Club U10 girls, who not only won the Hampshire County Championship but then became the first Hampshire team to win the South of England regional championships, were named Junior Team of the Year, with Horndean Youth FC U10s Reds and Grayshott Cricket Club U13 Foxes the runners-up.

The Junior Sportsman of the Year Award went to Luke Van Oudtshoorn, from Headley Down, who is a multiple winner in athletics, triathlon and biathlon. He ranked seventh all-time fastest in the UK for 3000m at U15 level with a certain Mo Farah third in that list.

Luke hopes to go to the U18 European and World Athletics Championships and to get on the GB Youth Triathlon team.

Athlete Joshua Wise, from Horndean, and trampolinist Robert Hamilton, from Runfold, Farnham, were the runners-up.

The Junior Disability Sportsperson of the Year award went to Selborne trampolinist Frederica Vazzana, who has a learning disability which means processing information, anxiety and social communication is a real challenge.

Runners-up were Liphook’s Josie Lintott, a fellow trampolinist, who achieved two podium places last year, and swimmer Lizzie Allen, from Froxfield, who has been awarded medals in various Southern regional galas, including the Down Syndrome European Championships representing England and her club.

Trampolinist Stuart Sharpe, from Holybourne, won the Senior Disability Sportsman of the Year. Diagnosed with Asperger’s, he is a coach, role model and inspiration, inspiring other young members of the club with his positive dedication to the sport.

Runners-up were cricketer Hugo Hammond, from Bentworth, and cricket and tennis player Benedict Taylor, from Ovington.

Athlete Georgina Hermitage, from Binsted, was awarded Senior Disability Sportswomen of the Year.

Following the London Paralympics, where she won two gold medals in her events, 100m and 400m, plus a silver in the 4x100m relay, Georgie decided to become classified as a parasport athlete.

Runners-up were athlete Abbie Hunnisett, from Alton’s Treloar College, and Rio’s GB disability shooting team member Lorraine Lambert, from Portsmouth.

Alton Cricket Club Second XI won the Senior Team of the Year award. Having been relegated from the Southern Premier League in 2015, and facing an uncertain future, they were promoted back into the Hampshire Cricket League as champions in 2016. Runners-up were Alton Social Bowls Club and Alton Hockey Club Men’s 1st XI.

South Hampshire Volleyball and Sitting Volleyball’s Richard Osbourne, from Clanfield, was named Coach of the Year.

Runners-up were Ropley Cricket Club’s Andrew Morris and Alton Tennis Club’s William May-Miller.

The Club of the Year award went to Havant Rifle and Pistol Club, based in Horndean – one of the best-kept secrets in the district, with one of the best facilities nationally.

They are responsible for developing many Paralympians, Olympians and several British Championship winners. Bordon Warriors Roller Hockey Club and Petersfield Table Tennis Club were the runners-up.

Ken Matthews, from Four Marks, walked off with the Senior Volunteer Award. The long-standing member of the Alton U3A has been the group leader of keep-fit courses, which now have more than 60 members, for more than 10 years.

The runners-up were Alton Ramblers’ Rob Hannah and James Woodhouse, who volunteers in running a Tri-High multi-sports club in Liphook.

Alton Tae Kwon Do’s Anna Pickett, based at the town’s Eggars School, was the Junior Volunteer of the Year award winner. She also received the Kicking Tigers Coach of the Year award recently, and is an excellent mentor to young children.

Four Marks’ Lucy Williams who competes in international and national judo competitions, and Alton Trampoline Club’s Seren Irwin were the runners-up.

The Senior Sportsperson of the Year award went to Four Marks’ Sophie Tandy, England U18s Sevens international rugby union captain, who now trains every two weeks with England.

Blackmoor Golf Club’s Colin Roope, from Horndean, who claimed both the scratch and handicap trophies in the 2016 Hampshire Order of Merit and tennis player George Houghton, from Headley, were the runners-up.

Master Sportsperson of the Year, Mark Nevola, passes on his experience through coaching at the newlyformed Four Marks Martial Arts Academy. In 2016, he won two bronze medals at the World Karate Championships plus gold in thte European Seniors team and Master Rotation team events with a silver in the individual master category.

Petersfield Cricket Club’s Jim Smallbone received the Services to Sport award. He has been involved with the club for more than 50 years as captain, coach, groundsman, secretary, barman and cleaner.

Runners-up were Four Marks Archery Club’s John Wakelin, from Alton, and Grayshott Cricket Club’s Graham Sampson.

The final award of the evening, for Outstanding Personal Achievement, went to Kevin Smith, who has just completed the equivalent distance of cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, a total of 879 miles, on a hand bike to raise money for Parity for Disability, which took him 15 weeks to complete.

Kevin has spent years dedicating himself to addressing the needs of young adults with profound disabilities as an unpaid trustee of the charity and is about to complete the equivalent of two marathons in two days.

The runners-up were Ed Marshall, who trained at Petersfield’s Taro Leisure Centre, after becoming wheelchair-bound in a life-changing accident, and Martin Sinclair, from Basingstoke, who began playing football at the age of 21 with a disability team and was a student support assistant at Teloar School until the end of 2016.

The evening was presented by ITV Meridian Tonight’s stalwart anchorman Fred Dinenage, a long-time awards supporter.