TASS STARS AWARDS – A few words from our winners

Five-time British triple jump champion Naomi Ogbeta has hailed the strength and determination driving the next generation of dual career talent after the 2021 TASS Stars winners were revealed.

Naomi, who studied politics and quantitative methods at the University of Manchester, won her fifth UK title earlier this summer.

And the 23-year-old was asked to join the judging panel ahead of this year’s TASS Stars awards after she was named our Most Inspirational Athlete in 2017.

“When I was presented with my TASS award by Jonathan Edwards a few years ago it was an unforgettable experience,” she said.

“This year I was honoured to be asked to be on the judging panel.

“It was so difficult to pick from such a variety of talented athletes who have achieved so much, inside and outside of sport, in spite of the challenges we have faced during the past few years.

“All of the nominees showed so much strength and determination and should be so proud of themselves.”

Each year a panel of judges assess nominations from coaches, governing bodies, parents and team-mates in a bid to identify the rising stars of the TASS community.

And in 2021 Naomi and her fellow judges were faced with a record number of submissions highlighting dual career athletes across a range of sports.

Ultimately, para powerlifter Tom Smith was unanimously identified as our Athlete of the Year and the Cambridge Regional College student admitted: “It means the world to me.

“To have the support and backing of TASS as a student and an athlete is something which has certainly helped me with my journey.

“Going into the last year at university, at times I became quite unsure and concerned around balancing the demands of both these key areas within my life.

“But I feel as though the support I have received from TASS has allowed me to set out strategic and effective plans in order to ensure neither my training nor my education are being held back.”

Tom scooped World Cup gold in Manchester earlier this year to underline his potential as one of England’s most exciting emerging athletes.

And he added: “It provoked a lot of emotion and is a memory I will cherish forever.

“I think with the year we have all had due to the COVID-19 pandemic everyone has faced their individual challenges.

“It’s taught me that life can be difficult for us but it’s about staying positive and being resilient. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

“To be nominated for this award was an amazing feeling.”

Liam Spinks is another para athlete recognised as a TASS Star after he was named Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year.

The A-level student who receives his TASS support at Manchester Metropolitan University said: “I’m not sure how I inspire others but I tackle everything in life by giving it my best!

“If someone closes a door, it’s up to me to kick it back open!

“Life is never easy and there will be barriers along the way. I have met plenty of obstacles in sport and in education.

“As a Futsal player I’m one player in a larger team and I like to think I help and encourage others and never want anyone to feel they aren’t good enough.

“We can all strive and succeed with a little direction.”

Harriet Knowles-Jones topped a tough shortlist in the Most Determined Athlete of the Year category.

The University of Manchester athlete has battled back from glandular fever to keep her middle distance dream on track.

And she said: “It means a huge amount to win this award.

“These last few years have been such a challenge so to be recognised is such a massive compliment.

“My family and my coach have never stopped believing in me and they give me the confidence to keep working at it.

“But on top of that, having continued support from TASS meant a huge deal. If they can recognise my potential even after a lack of races, then I know I’m being given every opportunity to be successful.”

Full list of award winners and runners up

Most Determined: Harriet Knowles-Jones

Runners up: Olivia Holmes, Georgia Pexton and Liam Spinks

Most Inspirational: Liam Spinks

Runners up: Rohan Bhuhi and Lamin Deen

Most Committed: Sephora Ford

Runners up: Olivia Holmes, Saran Nghiem and Chloe Robyns-Landricombe

Most Potential: Freya Black

Runners up: Yasmin Campbell, Funmi Fadoju, Saran Nghiem

Athlete of the Year: Tom Smith

Runners up: Amy Carter and Fiona Crackles

We look forward to hearing more form our winners in the coming weeks.