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News Feature, November 24, 2008

Cheers, tears as Meares claims top honour

By Greg Johnson in Melbourne, Australia

All smiles: Anna Meares shows off her
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

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."

Cadel Evans edged out Simon Gerrans and Robbie McEwen to win
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

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.

Anna Meares wasn't the only one in tears
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

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.

This year's awards, held at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt,
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

"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

Photography

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Images by John Veage

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