Northern Ireland cycling star Wendy Houvenaghel was last night crowned Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.
The Olympic silver medallist from Co Londonderry is the first female to win the the most prestigious prize in local sport.
The 34-year-old Upperlands girl’s silver gong was the first Olympic medal won by a Northern Ireland athlete for 16 years.
Wendy, who only took up cycling four years ago, was presented with her award at a gala banquet in Belfast’s Ramada Hotel.
Her rivals included Ryder Cup golfer Graeme McDowell, motorcycle star Jonathan Rea and double gold medal-winning paralympian Jason Smyth.
It was Jason who took the honours in the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability category following his heroics in Beijing last summer.
Smyth, just as Usain Bolt in the Olympics, roared to world records in both the 100 and 200 metre finals.
The Belfast Telegraph’s Young Player of the Year was racing driver Wayne Boyd, who dominated the 2008 British Formula Ford Championship.
Wayne is being tipped as a future Formula 1 driver.
Another youngster, hockey player David Ames, won the Belfast Telegraph Local Heroes award after a series of terrific performances on behalf of his school, club and country.
And the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Youth Games team walked away with the Young Team of the Year prize, following their medal-laden trip to India last year.
The Manager/Coach of the Year trophy went to Linfield’s David Jeffrey, who guided the Blues to an unprecedented third consecutive league and cup double in 2008.
Tyrone’s GAA stars claimed two awards last night, with Sean Cavanagh Player of the Year and Mickey Harte’s all-Ireland champions taking the Team of the Year prize.
Boxer Martin Rogan won the George Best Breakthrough Award and there was a special award for fellow boxer Paddy Barnes, a bronze medallist at the Olympics following his exploits in the Irish vest.
The original ‘Golden Girl’ herself, Dame Mary Peters, received the Paddy Patterson award for services to sport and legendary former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg was entered into the Belfast Telegraph’s sporting Hall of Fame.
Over 400 guests included high profile stars from the world of local sport, among them former Northern Ireland international footballers Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong, rugby stars BJ Botha, Ian Humphreys and Andrew Trimble and rower Richard Archibald.
Other star names attending were cricketer Kyle McCallan, boxer Paul McCloskey and mountaineer Hannah Shields.
Paying tribute to all winners, Belfast Telegraph editor Martin Lindsay said: “We’re delighted so many well-known names joined us for our 2008 awards ceremony and well done to all of our winners. It’s certainly been a fantastic year for local sport.”
This is the seventh year that Magners Irish Cider has partnered the Awards as title sponsor.
Gavan Morris, marketing manager, said: “Magners continues to play an important role in our sporting arena and we’re delighted to help recognise and reward some of our top sporting heroes.”
The newspaper also said a big thank you to individual sponsors Linwoods, Peugeot Motor Company, Pepsi, Sport Northern Ireland, Disability Needs, the Northern Ireland Sports Forum, Energise Sport, Presseye, Ladbrokes and ONE1918.
Jackie Fullerton and Jill Douglas were the presenters.