Fairweather claims supreme award

All those laps of Moana Pool have paid off for Erika Fairweather.

The 20-year-old Dunedin swimmer won the supreme award at the Otago Sports Awards at the Edgar Centre last night.

She is the first junior athlete to win the supreme award.

Fairweather had a strong year in the pool which culminated in a gold medal at the world championships in Qatar in February.

She took the top spot on the podium in her favoured 400m freestyle, adding second place in the 200m freestyle and bronze in the 800m freestyle.

There is a long list of other achievements, but that effort in Doha sticks out.

She will represent New Zealand at the Paris Olympics, which begin late next month.

Fairweather’s results suggested she was a slam dunk in the junior sportwoman of the year category and a firm choice for the supreme award.

Cricketer Glenn Phillips and ski racer Alice Robinson were among the night’s other big winners.

Phillips, who is in Trinidad and Tobago with the Black Caps at the ICC T20 World Cup, has enjoyed a breakthrough 12 months which led to him cementing his place in all three formats for the national team.

He was named Otago sportsman of the year ahead of freeskier Nico Porteous and golfer Ben Campbell.

Robinson, who hails from Queenstown, made five appearances on the podium at world cup events during the qualification period.

She edged world champion motocross rider and two-time supreme winner Courtney Duncan, and Silver Ferns midcourt star Kate Heffernan, as sportswoman of the year.

The Otago men’s hockey team collected the team of the year award. They followed their effort in 2022 to win back-to-back national championship titles.

Their 2022 title was the first time they had managed the feat in the 100-plus years of the Challenge Shield.

The Otago Sparks, who won the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield by beating defending champions Wellington in the final, and the Otago 4x400m relay team were the other finalists.

Versatile athlete Anna Grimaldi claimed the para athlete/team of the year crown for her silver and bronze-medal effort at the world championships in 2023.

Freeskier Luca Harrington made his first appearance on the podium. His third place at the FIS slopestyle world cup in Switzerland in March helped him get the nod for junior sportsman of the year.

Swimming guru Lars Humer was named coach of the year. He led the New Zealand teams at the 2023 world cup series and coached his team of four swimmers to three golds, four silvers and two bronze medals.

International cricket umpire Chris Gaffaney picked up the official of the year award, and the emerging talent award was shared between snowboarder Lucia Georgalli and freeskier Luke Harrold.

The services to sport award went to long-serving Albion and Otago cricket scorer Helen Simpson. She has clocked more than 50 years on the books.

The innovation in sport gong went to the Otago rugby community head impact detection study led by Danielle Salmon and Hamish Osborne.

The study findings have helped influence decisions around reduced tackle height in community rugby which is being trialled internationally.