News Feature, November 24, 2008
Cheers, tears as Meares claims top honour
By Greg Johnson in Melbourne, Australia
Track cyclist Anna Meares became only the second female to take the prestigious Sir Hubert Opperman medal at the Cycling Australia awards on Sunday evening. Meares collected the medal to a standing ovation by her peers, with the award joining the Female Track Cyclist of the Year and Scody People's Choice Rider of the Year awards she had taken out earlier in the evening.
"Thank you very much, I'm so honoured to win this award," said an emotional Meares. "I never thought I could win this thing, despite all the records the road riders are just too good. It is such a great honour to be able to inscribe my name on the trophy of the great Sir Hubert Opperman."
Earlier in the evening Meares brought a tear to the eye of all in attendance as she broke down recalling the emotional ride she experienced throughout the season. The South Australian-based Queenslander conveyed her gratitude to coach Marvin Barras and also her fellow Australian track team-members, who helped her throughout her recovery.
"I had a really long speech before because I never thought I could win this award," said Meares. "I think it would just be a fitting end to this evening if I could ask my teammates to come up here and accept this award with me."
The 25-year-old joins Anna Wilson as the only two females to win the Sir Hubert Opperman medal. Wilson, who was on hand at the event to present a number of awards, claimed the medal in 1999.
Meares captured the hearts and minds of her country men and women after coming back from life threatening injuries obtained during January's Los Angeles Track World Cup to win silver at the Beijing Olympic Games in August. The rider edged out Cadel Evans in the People's Choice and Hubert Opperman medal categories, with the Tour de France runner-up taking home the Elite Men's Road Rider of the Year title.
Evans had little to say after claiming his title, only going on to encourage the younger generation of Australian cyclists after he was told by the evening's host Stephen Hodge it would be rude not to say anything. The Victorian-based rider had earlier referred to his season of highs and lows being played out world wide on television, when he first claimed then lost the Tour de France's yellow jersey.
Track sensation Cameron Meyer drew a laugh from the crowd as he accepted the Male Track Cyclist of the Year award. "My speech won't be as long as Anna's," he declared, following her six minute speech.
Vicki Whitelaw claimed the Elite Women's Roas Cyclist of the Year award while Sam Hill and Caroline Buchanan claimed the men's and women's mountain biking titles for 2008. Nicole Callisto and Jared Graves topped the BMX billing, however neither were present as they are both competing this weekend.
Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks thanked the volunteers who give up so much of their time to ensure the sport's health in Australia. He also congratulated all of the evening's medal winners, making a special mention of Meares' achievements.
"I don't think there's anyone in this room who wouldn't be very proud, as we always are, of our cyclist of the year and I don't think any of us tonight would be any less proud to have Anna as the pinnacle winner of our sports award this year," said Fredericks. "She's a remarkable athlete and a remarkable person."
The Cycling Australia awards wrapped up a week of bicycling celebration in Melbourne. In addition to the UCI Track World Cup round the Victorian city also played host to the Bicycle Film Festival this week. Showing the strong cycling theme in Melbourne was Tour de France stage winner Simon Gerrans who was seen out riding with countryman Shane Sutton, the architect of Great Britain's successful track cycling program, earlier in the day.
Amongst the other big names attending the evening was German cycling legend Judith Arndt.
2008 Cycling Australia award winners:
- Toshiba Elite Track Cyclist of the Year - Male - Cameron Meyer (WA)
- Toshiba Elite Track Cyclist of the Year - Female - Anna Meares OAM (QLD)
- Elite Road Cyclist of the Year - Male - Cadel Evans (VIC)
- Elite Road Cyclist of the Year - Female - Vicki Whitelaw (ACT)
- Elite Mountainbike Cyclist of the Year - Male - Sam Hill (WA)
- Elite Mountainbike Cyclist of the Year - Female - Caroline Buchanan (ACT)
- Elite BMX Cyclist of the Year - Male - Jared Graves (QLD)
- Elite BMX Cyclist of the Year - Female - Nicole Callisto (WA)
- Para-cyclist of the Year - Male - Chris Scott OAM (QLD)
- Para-cyclist of the Year - Female - Lindy Hou OAM & pilot Toireasa Gallagher (NSW)
- Masters Cyclist of the Year - Male - Keith Oliver (NSW)
- Masters Cyclist of the Year - Female - Elizabeth Randall (VIC)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Male Track - Luke Davison (NSW)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Female Track - Megan Dunn (NSW)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Male Road - Michael Matthews (ACT)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Female Road - Lauren Kitchen (NSW)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Male MTB - Sam Willoughby (SA)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Female MTB - Caroline Buchanan (ACT)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Male BMX - Sam Willoughby (SA)
- Cyclingnews.com Junior Cyclist of the Year - Female BMX - Lauren Reynolds (WA)
- SBS Television Coach of the Year - Brian Stephens
- Scody 2008 People's Choice Cyclist of the Year - Anna Meares OAM
- Keith Esson Regional Media Award - Ballarat Courier
- Cycling Australia Media Awards - Best Photo - John Veage - Fairfax Media
- Cycling Australia Media Awards - Best Story - Mark Heintz - Ride Cycling Review
- Australian Sports Commission Cycling Volunteers of the Year
- ACT – Simon Dwyer
- NSW – Mike O'Reilly
- NT – Alex Foster
- QLD – Stan Brims
- SA – Eddie Smith
- Tasmania – David Walker
- Victoria – David James
- WA – Robert Barnes
- BMXA – Barbara Darrell
- Norm Gailey Trophy for Champion State - New South Wales
- Australian Club Premiership – Carnegie-Caulfield
- Women's Tripleplay National Road Series Champion – Carly Hibberd
- Men's Tripleplay National Road Series Champion – David Pell
- SBS Television National Road Teams Series Winner – Praties Cycling Team
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Veage
- All smiles: Anna Meares shows off her Sir Hubert Opperman medal and trophy.
- Anna Meares claimed the top female track rider of the year. Retired cyclist Anna Wilson and Paralympian Chris Scott were on hand to present the trophy.
- Vicki Whitelaw claimed the elite females road cyclist of the year.
- Masters cyclist of the year Elizabeth Randall gets her trophy from downhill rider Caroline Buchanan.
- The top volunteers from each state collect their awards, presented by Anna Meares and Cameron Meyer (left).
- This year's awards, held at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt, were the biggest yet.
- Anna Meares claimed the Scody People's Choice award, over a strong field.
- Caroline Buchanan took out the top women's mountain bike rider award.
- Carly Hibberd claimed the women's national road series title this year, while David Pell, who wasn't there on the night, took the men's series.
- Cameron Meyer took top honours in the men's track cyclist of the year award.
- Cadel Evans edged out Simon Gerrans and Robbie McEwen to win the male road cyclist of the year award.
- Chris Scott claimed the male para-cyclist of the year award.
- Caroline Buchanan presents Keith Oliver with his masters cyclist of the year award.
- The junior riders were presented with their awards by two former Tour de France riders.
- Stephen Hodge was the host for Cycling Australia's night of nights.
- Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks speaks to the audience.
- Female para-cyclist of the year Lindy Hou gave a great speech as she collected her award with pilot Toireasa Gallagher.
- Former Olympian Mike Turtur claims the best event award for Tour Down Under, which became a ProTour event this year.
- Anna Meares wasn't the only one in tears when she gave her speech after claiming top female track cyclist of the year.
- Brian Stephens collected the best coach award from Anna Meares and one of his riders from this season, Cameron Meyer.
- Mal Sawford was on hand to collect Carnegie-Caulfield's Australian Club Premiership award.
- While the night was held in Victoria, it was New South Wales that took home the top state award.
- Cadel Evans and Australian women's open road champion Onoene Wood presented some of the early awards.
- When the event's official photographer, John Veage, took out photo of the year, it was Anna Meares who jumped behind the camera to take the photos.
- Anna Meares asked her entire team to join her to collect the Sir Hubert Opperman trophy.
- Phil Anderson was one of several former riders helping the current crop of cyclists celebrate another strong season.