Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell OBE will be the guest speaker at the inaugural West Suffolk Sports Awards a week on Thursday (September 28).
Sporting talent across the Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury boroughs will be recognised in a glittering joint awards ceremony run by Abbeycroft Leisure and held at St Edmundsbury Catherdral next Thursday evening.
After the public were able to cast their vote via social media at the weekend for the Iliffe Media (publishers of the Bury Free Press, Haverhill Echo and Newmarket Journal)-sponsored People’s Champion and Young People’s Champion categories, there will be 13 awards handed out on the night.
And the interval will see one of track and field’s most recognisable names take part in a question-and-answer session on stage with BBC Radio Suffolk daytime presenter Lesley Dolphin.
Gunnell became a household name after winning her 400m hurdles gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics a quarter-of-a-century ago in 1992.
She is the only woman in history to have ever concurrently held all four major championship gold medals (Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European, plus a world record) at the same time.
She became part of the BBC Sport team on retiring from competing, interviewing athletes on the finish line and bringing the trackside atmosphere into the living rooms of millions of viewers across the UK.
As well as a mother of three, Gunnell spearheads charity events such as Cancer Research’s Race for Life, is a figurehead for the British Heart Foundation and an accomplished motivational speaker, promoting health and well-being for everyone.
“I’m very much looking forward to the West Suffolk Sports Awards, and in particular hearing all the fantastic inspirational stories from the athletes, coaches and volunteers,” she said.
The new joint sports awards replaces the separate St Edmundsbury Sports Awards (which celebrated its 10th year last year) and the Forest Heath Sports Awards, which ran for the first time in 2016.
Councillors Andy Drummond and Jo Rayner, cabinet members for leisure and culture for respectively Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury district councils, released a joint statement saying: “Sally Gunnell is a fantastic motivational figure.
“Her mantra of ‘small changes make big differences’ makes the impossible seem achievable.
“We are thrilled that she is joining us at the awards and inspiring west Suffolk children and adults to get into and enjoy a lifetime in sport.”
* The event at St Edmundsbury Cathedral is invite only, with a report to follow on this website and a full report and pictures in the following week’s papers (October 5 & 6).