No doubt about it folks, the National Sports Awards are becoming the Levern Spencer and Darren Sammy show. Saturday evening at the Gaiety, Rodney Bay, was no exception as Spencer received her 11th (eighth consecutive) Sportswoman of the Year title and Darren Sammy his seventh Sportsman of the Year. The trend may continue for the next few years.
A trend that did not continue came when prolific high jumper Jeannelle Scheper, was named Junior Sportswoman of the Year. Swimmer Siona Huxley won the award for five consecutive years, however, this time around Scheper who just might be the heir apparent to Spencer, soared to new heights on the collegiate, regional and international stage.
It was a big night for the St Lucia Athletics Association. In addition to Spencer and Scheper receiving their prestigious awards, middle distance runner Marbeq Edgar secured the 2012 Junior Sportsman of the Year title.
The glitzy formal fair was organized by the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, under the distinguished patronage of her Excellency, the Governor General Dame, Pearlette Louisy. In addition to the Governor General other prominent guests included Deputy Prime Minister, Phillip J Pierre; President of the Senate, Claudius Francis; Speaker of the House, Peter Foster; Minister of Sports, Shawn Edward along with other cabinet colleagues and members of the diplomatic corps.
The well organized event with co MC’s Jennifer Gaston and Jamie Peterkin, featured video clips of the top nominees and Great Sporting Moments of 2012, two highly entertaining dance presentations and a rousing song rendition by the Royal St Lucia Police Band.
This year’s ceremony not only honoured athletes, coaches, sponsors and the media, but also paid tribute to Michael Cazaubon (Posthumous Award for Outstanding Service to Sports). Jon Odlum and Michael Shaddy Hippolyte were also honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards.
The Grand Master of tennis in St Lucia Vernon Lewis, who received special recognition from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for his play and longevity in Davis Cup competitions, received an award for Outstanding Achievement. His son Taqel, who is the Junior Sports Personality in tennis, seems destined to follow in his father’s gigantic footsteps. In his welcome address, Minister Edward who is the Parliamentary Representative for Dennery North, spoke about progress being made in reenergizing the presence and effectiveness of youth and sports officers in the various communities.
He explained how his ministry had expanded its human resource base with the inclusion of a communications officer, event planner and sports scholarship coordinator and other administrative staff, courtesy of NICE (National Initiative to Create Employment).
Edward also expressed his appreciation to NICE for their sterling assistance when it comes to maintain all major playing fields, playgrounds and services around the island in a well manicured state, through the establishment of playing fields maintenance units and crews in every district.
Commenting on sporting facilities, the minister referred to the Beausejour Cricket Ground as the envy of the Caribbean. Unfortunately the same could not be said for a rapidly deteriorating George Odlum Stadium/Hospital, where patients not athletes became the top priority following the fire at St Jude’s Hospital.
Looking back at 2012, the minister said: “The year was not without its drawbacks and disappointments. One major issue of continued worry for my ministry, is the level of administration of sports by some national sports associations.”
Names were not mentioned and there was no finger pointing, but the minister in attempting to get his point across said not once but twice: “It appears as if some associations are the private domain of some individuals and are run as such, to advance their own interests, rather than the interest of their members and affiliates.”
Edwards assured everyone he would monitor the situation “because if ignored it could inversely impact the development of our sportsmen and sportswomen.”
While he applauded Levern Spencer, Beth Lygo, Darvin Edwards and Danielle Beaubrun for ensuring the St Lucia’s flag was raised high at the 2012 London Olympics, the minister said: “It is my firm belief the time has come for us to be more aggressive as a nation, in pursuit of our first Olympic medal.”
In closing the Edward delivered this message: “I want to call on all St Lucians and not just the sporting fraternity to be creative. Thirty four years of Independence should signify a level of maturity and creativity in dealing with seemingly difficult situations. Let me wish all St Lucians a productive and creative 34th Anniversary of Independence.”
The Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year each received $10,000 while the Junior and Senior Sportswoman of the Year were awarded an educational grant.
Following are the other award winners:
Student Athlete, Tevin Sheperd; Community Achievement, Francis George (Soufriere), Denise Herman (Choiseul); Coach of the Year, Francis “Baba” Lastic; Technical Official of the Year, Wayne Benti; Club of the Year, VSADC; Best Kept Sporting Facility, The Sab; Best Sporting District, Mabouya Valley; School of the Year, Vieux Fort Comprehensive; Winning Teams, Netball Under-16; National Swim Team, OECS Champions; Senior Cricket Team, Windward Island Champions; Female Volleyball Team, ECVA Champions; Male Volleyball Team, ECVA champions; People’s Choice Award, Darren Sammy.