The Bill McGowran Trophy is the longest running award of its kind. PHILIP BARKER pays tribute to this year’s winners.
Triple victories were the key to success for our Bill McGowran Award winners for excellence in para sport. Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid won all three wheelchair tennis grand slams in men’s doubles and Dame Sarah Storey’s three cycling golds in one day at the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in the Canadian city of Milton, Ontario secured her third Bill McGowran award almost 27 years after she first won it for swimming.
Back in February, Storey won individual pursuit, scratch race and omnium where she recorded the best time in the 200m time trial. The championships were completed as the first lockdowns were beginning in the Chinese city of Wuhan after the outbreak of Covid-19.
“We were staying in the same hotel as the Chinese team and we couldn’t communicate effectively enough with them to find out how they were feeling about the prospect of not being allowed to go home so a lot has happened and you look back and reflect quite a lot and feel grateful that we got so much racing done,” Storey told the SJA’s Karthi Gnanasegaram at the virtual British Sports Awards, sponsored by the National Lottery.
“It did feel quite surreal and a little greedy but to reflect and think back that still in 2020 after everything that has happened it’s a really proud time,” said Storey who hopes to add to her tally of 14 Paralympic gold medals in Tokyo next July.
For Hewett and Reid, their award crowns an amazing year. They beat the French pairing of Stéphane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer to win the Australian Open in the heat of Melbourne but then came the first lockdown which forced the cancellation of Wimbledon.
“It has been a long period between February to when we got back involved in September, but to bounce back and to win three out of four grand slam titles is something that personally we are very happy with,” said Hewett.
“We were extremely lucky to be able to travel and to do our job so to have that opportunity in the first place is something to not take for granted, this year. In the first lockdown it was really difficult. I struggled to fill my days with things to do. It is unusual not to be on a tennis court or not to be in the gym.”
Reid admitted that lockdown had forced him into the Glasgow parks to train.
“It was two or three months before I could go back on a tennis court. It is the longest period in my life I’ve gone without hitting a tennis ball,” he said.
The pair returned to action to claim the US Open in September beating Houdet and Peifer once again. At Roland Garros, they beat Gustavo Fernandez and Shingo Kunieda on a match tie-break.
Reid said: “It has been a really strange year with circumstances around the world but it has been a great year for us and one to remember for both of us.”
Their golden year might have been even better but for Kunieda who beat Reid in the Australian Open singles and Hewett at Flushing Meadow. Hewett did end the year with one singles title. He beat Belgian Joachim Gerard at Roland Garros.
A change in classifications has raised the possibility that Hewett, who has Perthes disease, might not be able to compete in future. The postponement of theParalympics has meant that, all being well, there will be one last hurrah with Reid in Tokyo where the pair will try to improve on their Rio 2016 silver.
The Bill McGowran Trophy is the longest running award of its kind. Named after the association’s former chairman, it has been awarded every year since 1963.
The 2020 SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by the National Lottery, was a virtual event, first shown on Thursday, December 10 and available on demand at www.thebritishsportsawards.co.uk/
- Patrick Collins pays tribute to Chris Brasher
- Who is the greatest sportsman and sportswoman of the last 71 years?
- Sport for Social Change Awards – Marcus Rashford, Lou Macari, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Dons Local Action Group
- Hamilton, Doyle and Liverpool FC are the big winners of 2020