Future stars celebrated at inaugural athlete awards

(L-R) Sally Nickson (on behalf of Calum Johnson), James Lambdon (on behalf of Rhys Thompson), Sarah Leiter, Georgia O’Connor and Naomi Ogbeta

Five student-athletes from across England have been revealed as the 2017 TASS Stars Awards winners following a celebratory morning at the World Athletics Championships on Friday.

Goalball player Sarah Leiter, triple jumper Naomi Ogbeta, judoka Rhys Thompson, triathlete Calum Johnson and boxer Georgia O’Connor were all named as prize-winners at the presentation, in recognition of their successes in the past year.

The inaugural awards aimed to shine a spotlight on the achievements of talented dual career athletes and reward their incredible efforts, both on and off the field.

Current triple jump world record holder, Jonathan Edwards – who is also a TASS ambassador – joined the awards celebrations to meet the shortlisted athletes and share his experiences of studying alongside competing at a world class level.

The finalists, who have all been supported by TASS for at least a year, were nominated by their peers, parents, NGB Leads or Delivery Site Leads and were selected for the shortlist following a rigorous scoring process.

Nominations were made across five categories designed to celebrate the attributes of a dual career athlete: Most Committed, Most Inspirational, Most Enterprising, Most Determined and Star of the Year.

A panel of experts – including Olympic silver medallist Shelley Rudman, Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown and BBC Sport’s Joel Goldman – were responsible determining the five prize winners.

University of Manchester’s Naomi Ogbeta meets former Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards

Three-time World Champion in archery, Danielle Brown said, “It was a real privilege to be able to judge the first TASS Stars Awards.

“The standard of the nominations was exceptionally high and the athletes’ outstanding commitment to both sport and study was evident.

“And as a former recipient of TASS support myself while I was studying for my Law degree, I’m well aware of the many challenges student-athletes face.

“For me, it was inspiring to read many of the remarkable stories submitted and it made judging even more difficult! Congratulations to all of the finalists.”

National Director, Guy Taylor, hosted the afternoon event and presented the five winners with their TASS Stars Awards trophies. He said:

“The awards created a fantastic opportunity to engage with the TASS network to recognise the endeavours of TASS athletes throughout the year.

“We were thrilled with the response received during the nomination period, demonstrating the dedication and drive the young athletes have to succeed in their sport and their education.

“The achievements of all the finalists are extraordinary for their respective reasons; it’s a shame there could only be five winners as we’re extremely proud of all them.”

The full results of the TASS Stars Awards 2017 are listed below.


TASS Stars Awards 2017

Most Committed

Awarded to a TASS athlete who has shown dedication to both study and sport, including excellent time management and efficiency in balancing demands.

Finalists: Antonia Bunyan, David Heath, Sarah Leiter

Winner: Sarah Leiter (Goalball / Cambridge University)

“Sarah takes her dual career in her stride. Studying Medicine, she has shown she can manage her time to the highest degree. With a very rigid academic timetable, Sarah liaises with support staff to avoid conflicts and ensure she gets her work done. She’s even attended more than 50 S&C sessions this year, demonstrating her desire to grasp every opportunity she can.”

Most Inspirational 

Awarded to a TASS athlete who possesses infectious enthusiasm, a positive attitude, has an aptitude for motivating others or demonstrates sportsmanship.

Finalists: Kristian Callaghan, Nathan Edge, Naomi Ogbeta

Winner: Naomi Ogbeta (Athletics / University of Manchester)

“Politics and Social Anthropology student Naomi oozes humour and positivity. Her attitude is infectious and she inspires scores of athletes involved with University Sport. This year she smashed her triple jump goal with a new PB, and even found the time to help raise funds for the university comedy society trip to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

Most Enterprising 

Awarded to a TASS athlete who has used creativity and imagination to advance or achieve in their sport or studies in order to realise their ambitions.

Finalists: Issa Batrane, Liam Hall, Jonny Jones, Rhys Thompson

Winner: Rhys Thompson (Judo / University of Bath)

“Rhys has demonstrated his ambition and passion by making the very difficult decision to distance learn his degree from Bath, whilst also working on placement as a staff member and training full time with the Judo programme. His creatively and tenacity is particularly admirable having chosen to take on such an extreme challenge.”

Most Determined 

Awarded to a TASS athlete who has been adaptable, may have overcome considerable challenges in order to succeed, or who has demonstrated resilience.

Finalists: Sarah Collin, Calum Johnson, Lloyd Wallace

Winner: Calum Johnson (Triathlon / Leeds Beckett)

“Triathlete Calum is lucky to be alive after a road traffic accident while out on a training ride which resulted in his gluteal muscle being sliced in half. Since this set back he has been absolutely dedicated to rehab, undertaking hours of gym, self-massage and physio every day. He is now reaping the rewards of his hard work having recently won a European Cup.”

Star of the Year

Awarded to a TASS athlete to recognise an outstanding achievement or to someone who is a “one to watch” of the future in either their sport or studies.

Finalists: Cameron Chalmers, Tom Gale, Sarah McDonald, Georgia O’Connor

Winner: Georgia O’Connor (Boxing / University of Durham)

“Selected to box for England after only her third fight, Georgia has achieved so much in her relatively short boxing career. She is currently national champion, GB champion, European silver medallist, Youth Commonwealth Games gold medallist and is the youngest boxer training with the GB world class program. Her goal was to compete in the 2024 Olympics, however 2020 is looking more likely!”