Belfast Telegraph

Wendy Houvenaghel hails depth of our sporting talent

By Steven Beacom

Olympic medal winning cyclist and three-time world champion Wendy Houvenaghel has hailed the depth of talent in all aspects of Northern Ireland sport.

Wendy was speaking after being involved in the judging for the 2014 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards which take place on January 26, 2015 at the Ramada Plaza hotel in Belfast.

Hundreds of nominations were made by members of the public and sporting bodies for Northern Ireland's most prestigious sports awards, giving the judges the toughest of tasks, not only to select shortlists but come up with winners in each category.

The Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, do not just celebrate our global superstars, they recognise young competitors, young teams and people doing wonderful things at grassroots level.

Upperlands woman Houvenaghel won the top prize, the Sports Star of the Year award, at the 2008 ceremony having collected a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.

And to mark the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, the Team Pursuit world champion was invited to be part of the judging process along with Dr Shaun Ogle (Performance Director, Sport Northern Ireland), Rosemary McWhinney (NI Sports Forum) and myself.

Wendy admitted that such was the number and quality of nominations it made for a tricky if enjoyable task.

"It was fantastic to see so many nominations for all the different categories and shows just how much sporting talent there is in Northern Ireland," said Houvenaghel, who retired from competitive cycling earlier this year.

"What's so impressive is that in Northern Ireland we are providing champions in a vast array of sports.

"When you consider the Young Team and Young Player of the year shortlists, not only is the present bright, but the future will be as well.

"I really enjoyed being part of the judging process, but have to admit it was a challenge because we had so many outstanding candidates throughout the categories.

"It is great to see so many of our sports stars achieving great things on the world stage and also those at home shining in their respective fields.

"Now I'm looking forward to the awards ceremony itself. It is always a wonderful night."

All of the results will be announced next month when the great and good of Ulster sport come together for the awards, which are supported again by Sport NI.

Our 2013 Sports Star of the Year was legendary jockey Tony McCoy, who was presented with his prize by his boyhood idol, Arsenal and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings.

With the Awards in their 20th year, a special prize will be presented to Northern Ireland's Greatest Sports Star Ever, as chosen by the public.

You can vote for your choice on our website www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Thousands of you have already voted. If you haven't already done so, please select your favourite from the 20-strong shortlist. The closing date for votes is January 1.

The public can also buy tickets and celebrate the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 20th anniversary and have the chance to mix with our top sporting stars!

The black tie event includes a pre-dinner drinks reception, four course meal, wine on the table and a Sports Awards goody bag to take home.

Tickets cost £60 plus vat (£72). Contact Sarah or Rosemary at JPR Tel 028 9076 0066 or sarah.weir@jprni.com.

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