Glasgow Commonwealth Games marathon gold medallist Michael Shelley (Qld) and new Australian javelin record holder Kim Mickle (WA) are the toast of the Australian athletics world tonight, with the duo declared the 2014 Athletes of the Year by Athletics Australia at a gala awards ceremony in Melbourne.
Sharing the spotlight with Para-Athletes of the Year Angela Ballard (NSW) and Michael Roeger (SA) and high jump charge Eleanor Patterson (Vic), who was declared the best Australian Junior, the quintet were rewarded for their stunning success this year both domestically as part of the National Athletics Series and on the world stage at events including the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Shelley edged out fellow finalists Hamish Peacock (Tas, javelin), Jared Tallent (Vic, 50km walk), Dane Bird-Smith (Qld, 20km walk) and Jeff Riseley (Vic, 800m, 1500m) in the voting to secure his first Male Athlete of the Year Award.
His win caps off a simply breathtaking year for the endurance star that includes victory in the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, a memorable gold medal in the marathon at 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and his recent inclusion on the shortlist of finalists for the coveted ‘The Don’ Award.
“Thank you to Athletics Australia for this great honour, and congratulations to all the nominees on their great years as well,” Shelley, who was unable to attend the event due to competition commitments, said.
“I thank my Mum and Dad for giving up so much and working so hard to give me the opportunities I have received. To my coach Dick (Telford), you have not just been a great coach over the past 12 years but also a great friend. I am forever grateful for your coaching guidance and I am looking forward to continuing to achieve the goals we have set for the future.
“And I would like to thank all the volunteers who give up their time at fun runs and track meets around Australia for us to participate and do our very best. Without them our sport doesn’t work.
Edging out the Olympic champion Sally Pearson (Qld) by just one vote, as well as fellow finalists and Glasgow gold medallists Dani Samuels (NSW), Alana Boyd (Qld) and Patterson, Mickle was declared Female Athlete of the Year in the most hotly contested of the categories at tonight’s event.
The national javelin champion, a multiple IAAF Diamond League podium finisher and gold medallist from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, her victory was sealed on the basis of her stunning 66.83m throw at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge to etch her name into the history books as the new national record holder in the women’s javelin.
“Wow. This is amazing. Last year was a massive shock, and to win a second in a row is unbelievable,” Mickle said.
“The other girls nominated are the people that I look up to so to win an award like this ahead of them is pretty special. I feel like I am following in their footsteps most of the time and it’s an honour.
“I have to thank my WAIS coach Grant Ward, who has been there through thick and thin and not only do I call him the best coach in the world but also a great mate.”
The winner of the Female Para-Athlete of the Year Award, Ballard also won gold at Glasgow 2014 after she was first past the post in the T54 wheelchair 1500m, while Roeger ends his 2014 campaign with a new personal best in the 1500m that sits him atop the world rankings list for his amputee class.
Ballard was announced winner ahead of her Commonwealth Games teammates Jodi Elkington (NSW) and Christie Dawes (NSW) and the world number one ranked Kath Proudfoot (NSW), while Roeger reigned supreme ahead of Glasgow 2014 medallist Kurt Fearnley (NSW), middle distance runner Deon Kenzie (Tas) and visually impaired sprinter Chad Perris (WA).
“It is an honour to win for the second time, and for me it’s great to be able to come to the event and accept this year because I couldn’t make it last time,” Ballard said.
“I’m just so appreciative of the accolades I’ve received since my success in Glasgow. It’s great.”
“Recognition is great because there has been so much hard work,” Roeger added.
“I definitely think that this year has been huge for me. To travel to the US like I did and compete there, and to run against the able-bodied athletes here has helped too much and I have to thank everyone involved for making this happen.”
Patterson was unrivalled in the Junior Athlete of the Year Award, with every member of the Selection Panel proclaiming the 18-year-old to be the best underage athlete Australia has to offer.
Her 2014 campaign began shortly before the New Year with a world youth best of 1.96m in the women’s high jump, before her maiden open national crown and a gold medal on debut at the Commonwealth Games. Patterson’s award was accepted by her father Mark, as she was busy concentrating on her secondary school studies.
AWARD WINNERS – 2014 ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARDS
Art Series Hotel Volunteer of the Year: Helen Roberts (Qld)
Eurosport Athlete of the Year, for the best performance on the IAAF Diamond League: Dani Samuels (NSW)
Flame Athlete of the Year, for the best team person: Lauren Wells (ACT)
Australian Sports Commission Junior Coach of the Year: David Green (Vic)
Australian Sports Commission Para-Athletics Coach of the Year: Philo Saunders (ACT)
Australian Sports Commission Coach of the Year: Dick Telford AM (ACT)
Edwin Flack Award: Nathan Deakes (ACT)
Life Governorship: Pat Clohessy AM (Qld)
Male Para-Athlete of the Year: Michael Roeger (SA)
Female Para-Athlete of the Year: Angela Ballard (NSW)
Male Athlete of the Year: Michael Shelley (Qld)
Female Athlete of the Year: Kim Mickle (WA)