Heroes honoured in sporting awards + VIDEO

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GRASS-ROOTS heroes were honoured at the first Sunderland Echo Sports Awards.

The glittering ceremony at the Stadium of Light celebrated Wearside’s top sporting talent, as well as the clubs and coaches which inspire them.

Warren Baister picked up the award for Performance of the Year. He is pictured with Echo editor Rob Lawson and Russell Foster who won the Lifetime of Achievement award..

Warren Baister picked up the award for Performance of the Year. He is pictured with Echo editor Rob Lawson and Russell Foster who won the Lifetime of Achievement award..

Friends, family and supporters gathered to see Sky news presenter Philippa Tomson and Echo editor Rob Lawson hand out the awards.

Winner of the top gong, Personality of the Year, was footballer Jill Scott, who is part of the Great Britain women’s team aiming for Olympic glory.

Black Cats new boy Carlos Cuellar and reserve keeper Ben Wilson picked up the award for Jill, who took to Twitter to express her delight.

She said: “Big thanks for the messages. Really pleased to win Sunderland Sports Personality of the year! Hope the family enjoyed the night.”

Among the other winners was businessman Russell Foster, who picked up a lifetime achievement award.

The entrepreneur founded the Russell Foster Tyne and Wear Youth League, which has grown into one of the biggest youth leagues in the country, with more than 23,000 players.

He said: “It is a great honour. It is certainly one of the few awards that I have had.

“The league itself was started up in 1975 and I took it over in 1976 when they had an under-15s league and it just went on from there.

“It goes right across from under-eights to under 21s.

“It is tremendously important, because our leagues are not academies and they are available for all the community.”

The event also recognised the hard work of officials and referees, as well as the unseen helpers who strive tirelessly behind the scenes.

Dedicated Jayne Dixon, from Hetton, continued her work as gymnastics coach, despite being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now the 31-year-old has been given the all- clear and says kids at Jaynastics club helped pull her through.

“When I was 29, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but I continued to teach as best I could all the way though.

“When you go to a session and every time you see them (the kids), they are over the moon to see you,” she said.

Energy firm EDF sponsored a number of awards, including performance of the year.

Boxer Warren Baister was delighted to receive the title, after narrowly missing out on qualifying for the Olympics.

The 26-year-old, from Carley Hill, said: “It was nice to be nominated and nice to get an award like this, as it lets you know that stuff you do is appreciated.”

Heavyweight fighter Warren is on crutches after picking up an injury during training, but hopes to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

And he praised bosses at Gentoo, where he works as a joiner, for supporting his passion, which has seen him named national Amateur Boxing Association champion.

Twitter: @janethejourno

l Comment – Page 32

(1)Team Award

(WINNER) Sunderland Women’s Football Club

(RUNNER UP) Ryhope Colliery Welfare FC

2)16-18 Team Award

(WINNER) Nissan Girls FC

(RUNNER UP) Sunderland DS Devils

3)Special Achievement Award

(WINNER) Kez Greenwood

(RUNNER UP) Susan Hall

4)Youth 16-18 Sportsperson Special Achievement Award

(WINNER) Pat McCormack

(RUNNER UP) Lauren Emmerson & Erin Mattinson

(RUNNER UP) Brett Sargeant

5)Sports Official/Referee Award

(WINNER) Shaun Hudson

(RUNNER UP) Danny McFarlane

6)Coach or Mentor Award

(WINNER) Danny Thompson

(RUNNER UP) Mick Mulhern

7)Contribution to Disability Sports Award

(WINNER) Kevin Darke

(RUNNER UP) Mike Stansfield and Karen Parry

8)Lifetime Achievement Award

(WINNER) Russell Foster

(RUNNER UP) Ken Jefferson

9)Unsung Hero Award

(WINNER) Jayne Dixon

(RUNNER UP) Allison Jones

10)Performance of the Year Award

(WINNER) Warren Baister (RUNNER UP) David Bolt

11)The Ian Laws Award

(WINNER) Tony Jeffries

12)Sports Personality of the Year Award

(WINNER) Jill Scott