By Ben Bloom
Jake Wightman and Jemma Reekie were named male and female British Athletes of the Year in a Scottish clean sweep at the British Athletics Writers Association 2020 awards.
In a year decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wightman produced one of the finest middle-distance runs ever seen by a British athlete, moving second on the all-time 1500m rankings – above the likes of Seb Coe and Steve Cram – when he clocked 3:29.47 at the Monaco Diamond League. He also posted an 800m personal best of 1:44.18.
Those achievements saw him earn enough votes to beat Andrew Pozzi into second place and Mo Farah into third to claim the John Rodda Award for Male British Athlete of the Year.
‘It’s a great honour especially in a year where we didn’t think there were going to be enough performances to give any kind of awards out,’ said 26-year-old Wightman.
‘To be given this isn’t something I expected back in March when it didn’t look like anything would happen.
‘It’s a real shame the Olympics didn’t happen this year but we all have to pick ourselves up and get ready for next year. I hope we’re going to see a brilliant Games and some great performances from British athletes.’
Jake in Monaco (photo via Twitter)
In the space of one astonishing February fortnight, Reekie set British indoor 800m, 1500m and mile records to announce herself on the global middle-distance scene.
Her indoor 800m mark of 1min 57.91sec was the fastest indoor time in the world since 2006 and she later set an 800m outdoor personal best to top this year’s British outdoor rankings.
Reekie finished ahead of her training partner Laura Muir, who came second, and Laura Weightman, in third, to win the Cliff Temple Award for Female British Athlete of the Year.
‘Thank you for all the support,’ said the 22-year-old from her training camp in South Africa.
‘It’s been great this year. I had such a difficult year so it’s nice to win the award. I’m happy I even got to race this year and for all of them to be pretty good. I’m delighted to have won and happy for the support and the support next year as well.
‘I think I’ve got a lot to improve on and I can work on and I just push myself every year even harder and keep improving from that.’
Photo by Bobby Gavin
With the 58th annual BAWA Awards held virtually on Twitter rather than staged in person, the prestigious Ron Pickering Memorial Award for Services to Athletics was given to former UK Athletics major events director Cherry Alexander, who left the governing body after 29 years.
‘The Pickering name in our sport conjures up commitment, professionalism and prestige,’ said Alexander.
‘I’ve seen at face value the help, support and empathy they have shown to athletes over many years and I’ve been fortunate to work closely with Shaun [Ron’s son].
‘I feel very humbled to have my name associated with this award. I still can’t take the smile off my face – I’m absolutely delighted.”
The Vikki Orvice Inspiration Award was presented to distance running legend Ron Hill, who broke world records at four distances and became only the second man to break 2hr 10min for the marathon during his career.
Now 82, he did not miss a single day of running for more than 52 years – from December 1964 to January 2017 – and developed a successful sportswear brand.
A lack of opportunities for para athletes to compete in 2020 meant no para awards were given out.
BAWA 2020 WINNERS
John Rodda Award for Male Athlete of the Year – Jake Wightman
Cliff Temple Award for Female Athlete of the Year – Jemma Reekie
Jim Coote Memorial Award for Junior Male – Max Burgin
Lillian Board Memorial Award for Junior Female – Keely Hodgkinson
Vikki Orvice Inspiration Award – Ron Hill
Ron Pickering Memorial Award – Cherry Alexander