Matthews joins Ennis and Idowu among the winners

MATTHEW BROWN reports from the British Athletics Writers’ Association dinner staged in London last night, where as well as sporting achievement being recognised, one of the country’s leading sports broadcasters picked up the prestigious Ron Pickering Memorial Award

Jessica Ennis and Phillips Idowu were named Athletes of the Year at the BAWA’s 47th Annual Awards Dinner last night.

Britain’s two gold medallists at this summer’s world championships in Berlin were voted the country’s top athletes of 2009 in a poll among BAWA members. Idowu won the male trophy for the second year in a row, the first to do so since fellow triple jumper Jonathan Edwards in 2000 and 2001.

Ennis won the women’s award for the first time after dominating the heptathlon in Berlin only a year after she was forced to miss the Beijing Olympic Games with a career-threatening ankle injury. The 23-year-old from Sheffield won gold with a world leading score of 6,731pts, placing her second behind Denise Lewis, the 2000 Olympic champion, on the British all-time list.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d go to the World Championships and lead from beginning to end,” Ennis said.

“I’ve set a high standard for myself but with the Olympics here in three years this is the time and opportunity to make the most of it.”

Ennis also won the 2009 Best Performance in a British Vest trophy, presented by sponsors Aviva, during the glittering ceremony at London’s Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel in front of 350 guests.

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Idowu, the 30-year-old triple jumper from Hackney, broke his outdoor personal best in Berlin to become Britain’s first male world champion since Edwards in 2001. Idowu leapt 17.73 metres to beat Olympic gold medallist Nelson Evora.

“I was disappointed in Beijing,” Idowu said. “I was in great shape and it slipped through my fingers.

“But I jumped well in 2009 and it was great to get one over on Nelson. Now we’ve got a bigger party coming up in 2012 and I’m looking forward to that.”

Jodie Williams won the junior women’s award after clinching gold at 100 and 200 metres at the world youth championships in July. The 16-year-old from Hertfordshire became the first British woman to win a global sprint double when she triumphed in Italy, her winning 11.39 and 23.08sec placing her third in the national senior rankings for 2009.

The junior men’s award went to Lawrence Clarke who won the 110 metres hurdles at the European junior championships. The 19-year-old Bristol University student also broke Colin Jackson’s British junior sprint hurdles record with 13.37sec. He is coached by Jackson’s former mentor, Malcolm Arnold.

Television commentator, stadium announcer and statistician Peter Matthews was presented with the Ron Pickering Memorial Award for services to athletics. The former BBC radio and ITV Sport athletics commentator, Matthews is editor of the world-renowned International Track and Field Annual, and co-edits the Athletics International newsletter.

A former editor of the Guinness Book of Records, in a 40-year career he has covered numerous major championships and Olympic Games as a commentator and announcer. Described by Sean Pickering, Ron’s son, as “an athletics nut in the true sense of the word”, Matthews is chairman of NUTS, the National Union of Track Statisticians, and he is a committee member of the international Association of Track and Field Statisticians.

On receiving his award from Jean Pickering, Ron’s widow, Matthews said: “I first picked up a microphone in April 1968 and I haven’t been too short of words too often since then, but I really am speechless this time.

“It is an enormous privilege to be presented with this award by one of the greatest ladies in British athletics.”

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