By Matthew Brown, BAWA
Marlon Devonish and Christine Ohuruogu were tonight named as the 2007 athletes of the year at the British Athletics Writers’ Association annual awards dinner in London.
Devonish picked up BAWA’s male athlete of the year for the second time after an impressive season in which he claimed the 100-200m double at the national championships for the second year. Ohuruogu won the women’s award for her remarkable return from a year’s enforced lay off to become the 400m world champion.
Ohuruogu also won a relay medal as she ran the first leg in the 4x400m relay team that smashed the British record to win world championships bronze. But it was her performance in the individual final that won her the accolades.
In only her sixth race of the year, and little more than three weeks after the end of a 12-month ban for missing drugs tests, the 23-year-old Londoner took a dramatic gold medal in Japan, lowering her personal best in all three rounds of the championships. Her winning time of 49.61 seconds in the 400m final was the third fastest ever by a British woman.
Just as she did in that Osaka final, Ohurougu pipped her rival Nicola Sanders to the athlete of the year title after a close vote among BAWA members.
“It wasn’t an easy year for me,” said Ohuruogu. “It took a lot of determination from myself and my coach Lloyd Cowan. I am very proud of UK Athletics for backing me.”
At the age of 31, Devonish had one of his best ever seasons in 2007 as he lowered his long-standing personal best for 100m and finished sixth in the 100m final at the World Championships in Osaka.
The Coventry Godiva runner shared the athlete of the year award in 2004 with three other members of Britain’s triumphant Olympic relay squad, and this year he secured another global 4x100m medal in Osaka when he ran the third leg in Britain’s bronze medal-winning quartet.
“It’s great to stand here on my own,” Devonish said. “I’ve been here with the 4×100 boys, but it makes me very proud to be here on my own. A lot of prestigious people have been up here before me. It’s a real honour.”
The winning pair received their awards from BAWA chairman Jason Henderson, editor of Athletics Weekly, before a glittering gathering of more than 300 journalists, athletes, agents, managers and guests from the past and present of British track and field.
The ceremony, at the Royal Lancaster Hotel near Hyde Park, was an especially happy one for Ohuruogu, who was also named by the evening’s sponsor Norwich Union as winner of its best performance in a British vest award.
Webster’s 20 years recognised
Sprinters Alex Nelson and Asha Philip were named junior athletes of the year, Nelson for winning the European junior men’s 200m title in Hengelo and Philip for her gold medal-winning run at the IAAF World Youth championships in Ostrava.
Members of BBC TV’s athletics team turned out in force to see Martin Webster get the Ron Pickering Memorial Prize for services to the sport. Webster, the BBC’s executive producer of athletics coverage over the last 20 year, received the award from Shaun and Jean Pickering, Ron’s son and widow, and the veteran BBC commentator Stuart Storey.
Storey said Webster was â€œone of the most talented men Iâ€™ve ever had the pleasure to work withâ€.
The proceedings were compered expertly by BAWA member and athletics announcer Andy Kay, and ended in suitably celebratory style with a guest appearance by singer Natasha Bedingfield.
Picture top from the British Athletics Writers’ Association’s annual awards dinner, staged at the Royal Lancaster Hotel on October 27. The 2007 athletes of the year (from left), Marlon Devonish, 400m world champion Christine Ohuruogu, world youth champion Asha Philip and European junior 200m champion Alex Nelson
Picture below shows BBC athletics producer Martin Webster who was honoured with the Ron Pickering Memorial Award. Here, he is seen with (left to right) his wife, Liz, Jean Pickering, Sean Pickering and long-time track commentator Stuart Storey, who described Webster as â€œone of the most talented men Iâ€™ve ever had the pleasure to work withâ€