After toiling in the vineyard, Alia Atkinson became the third swimmer to win the coveted RJR Sports Foundation’s National Sportswoman of the Year Award, while boxer Nicholas “The Axeman” Walters emulated Bunny Grant and Mike McCallum to notch the Sportsman of the Year Crown, as they were announced winners at the Gala function held at the Pegasus Hotel last night.
Atkinson followed in the footsteps of the brilliant swimmers Belinda Phillips and Frances Noble to win the award, following her world record equaling swim of 1 min 02.36 secs to win the gold at the World Short course Championship ahead of Olympic champion Metulliya in the 100 metre breaststroke. She also won silver and bronze medals in the 100 and 50m breaststroke finals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Atkinson thanked her parents, her support structure and coaches, and also thanked the RJR Sports Foundation for the Award, claiming she accepted the award on behalf of Jamaica.
Walters, with two world title defences in 2014 to become the WBA Featherweight Super Championship, has now moved into consideration as the best fighter pound for pound in the world.
The 29 year old loquacious boxer seemed speechless when he took to the microphone, but eventually became as smooth as silk in delivering his acceptance speech. He promises to do even better in 2015. The last boxer to win the award was Mike “The Bodysnatcher” McCallum in 1990.
Kaliese Spencer and shot putter O’Dayne Richards were the respective runners-up.
The other boxer in the house, Alicia ‘Slick” Ashley, the former world champion, received the Chairman’s Award from Gary Allen, the Chairman of the RJR Sports Foundation and Managing Director of the RJR Group of companies.
The Sagicor Iconic Award went to 1976 Olympic 200 metre champion and multiple Commonwealth Games champion Donald “DQ” Quarrie, while the People’s Choice Performance Award went to Alia Atkinson, who emerged as a multiple award winner on the night.
There were many category winners, with Bancroft Gordon delivering the keynote address, challenging the country to focus on our high school structure to build our talent for the respective sports.