Simmonds and Lister enjoy record-breaking 2009

TOM DEGUN outlines the outstanding achievements of 2009’s joint winners of the SJA’s Bill McGowran Trophy

Disability athletes Ellie Simmonds and Hilary Lister have each enjoyed remarkable, record-breaking 2009s, recognised this week at the SJA’s British Sports Awards.

Teenaged swimmer Simmonds – pictured collecting her SJA Sports Award from Dame Tani Grey-Thompson – became a household name after claiming two gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, aged just 13.

Simmonds – who has achondroplasia – began 2009 by becoming the youngest person ever to receive an MBE. But it was quickly back to the pool in March for the British Championships, in Sheffield, where she set world records in the S6 classification for 400 metres freestyle and 200m individual medley.

In May, she dismantled her competition in Manchester at the Paralympic World Cup, claiming another world record in the S6 100m freestyle.

But Simmonds saved her best performances until the end of the year. In October at the European championships in Reykjavik, Simmonds claimed five gold medals, two of which came in world record time, while earlier this month she claimed three more gold medals ” and two more world records – at the world short-course championships.

Simmonds was named on Wednesday as the joint winner of the SJA’s Bill McGowran Trophy along with another extraordinary sportswoman. Hilary Lister ” a record-breaking quadriplegic sailor from Kent ” this year achieved a quite outstanding feat, as the the first disabled woman to sail solo around Britain.

The voyage consisted of a series of day sails that started from Dover in June 2008. Due to bad weather and technical problems, the attempt was suspended and then re-started from Plymouth this May.

Lister sailed clockwise along the coasts of Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, along the Caledonian Canal, through to the east coast of England and home to the finish line in Dover.

The Bill McGrowran Trophy is the oldest annual award for disability sport, having been first presented in 1963, and has since been won by some of the greatest names in British disability sport including Chris Holmes, Tim Reddish, David Roberts, David Weir and, of course, Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Bill McGrowran was the Sports Editor of the Evening News in London in the 1940s and was an influential chairmen of what was then the Sports Writers’ Association.

Tom Degun writes for, which provides exclusive and unrivalled daily behind-the-scenes coverage on the issues and personalities that shape the Paralympic Games.

Click here for more recent articles on journalism, sport and sports journalism

Your SJA subscription is due from JANUARY 1 – click here for details of how to make your payment