Corbin Strong’s outstanding first year as an elite cyclist has been recognised with the ILT Senior Sportsperson of the Year award.
The senior award was the culmination of a week-long virtual celebration of Southland sport presented by Sport Southland on behalf of the Southland Amateur Sports Trust.
Sport Southland chief executive Brendon McDermott believed hosting the awards online had been a success in the face of the ongoing issues presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While we are able to enjoy the benefits of stamping out Covid-19 around the country, the economic impact continues to effect most areas of society and that challenged us to think differently about how we celebrated a fantastic year of sporting achievement,” McDermott said.
Strong became the first New Zealander to win an elite points race title at the world track cycling championships in Berlin in March, following on from a silver medal with the men’s pursuit team at the same event.
It was an extraordinary accomplishment for a 19-year-old still making his way as a professional bike rider.
“It’s something I’d dreamed of since I fell in love with the sport,” Strong said.
“For it to happen when I was 19 was very special. I originally thought I’d be able to do it as a junior and I went to junior worlds twice and finished fourth in my individual races, so to do it in my first year as an elite was really special.”
The former Southland Boys’ High School student also won a stack of medals at World Cup level, young rider honours on the road in two UCI-ranked tours in Asia, and the national elite men’s omnium and Oceania points race titles.
Strong thanked his parents, wider family and friends, long-standing sponsor Paul Adams from Stabicraft, Cycling Southland and Academy Southland for their backing.
“I’m super lucky in that regard and super humbled to grow up in a place like Southland and such a supportive community. So many people have helped me to get to where I am now.”
Having no shortage of role models had given Strong the confidence that he could achieve in cycling, he said.
“It really makes you believe, coming from a small place like Southland, or a small country like New Zealand, that we can get to the top of these big sports over in Europe. Watching Regan Gough win the junior points race when I was 14 really inspired me and watching Tom Scully get second in the elite points race was another inspiring moment that really made me believe.”
Currently training in Cambridge, Strong hopes to join his team mates on the Dutch-based SEG Racing Academy in Europe in July ahead of a possible start to the racing season in August, but is waiting to see how the pandemic situation unfolds.
This year’s winners and award recipients were:
- ILT SENIOR SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR – Corbin Strong (cycling)
- VODAFONE JUNIOR SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR – Shakira Mirfin (rowing)
- SOUTHLAND KIA TEAM OF THE YEAR – Southland elite men’s team sprint (Nick Kergozou, Tom Sexton, Conor Shearing)
- NZME MASTERS ACHIEVEMENT – Dwight Grieve (athletics)
- RICOH SOUTH COACH OF THE YEAR – Chris Knight (athletics)
- CREATION SIGNS OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – Karl McDonald (rugby and sevens)
- BDO ADMINISTRATOR OF THE YEAR – Phil Hartley (athletics)
SPORT SOUTHLAND SERVICES TO SPORT:
- Leicester Rutledge (Rugby)
- Jeff Walker (Football)
- Peter White (Tennis)
- Angee Shand (Netball)
MIKE PIPER TROPHY: – Shakira Mirfin
Southland Times Story of the Year Meanwhile, world record-breaking shearer Megan Whitehead dominated the voting in the Southland Times Story of the Year, winning over 50 percent of the public vote.
Whitehead’s personal tally of 608 helped set a new women’s nine-hour world four stand lamb shearing record in January.
“I was the second last female called up for the team and I had no idea. I thought I would do a record, but not for another three or four years, so it was sprung on me quite early and I just decided to give it a go.”
Whitehead worked with a personal trainer, joined a gym for the first time and focused strongly on her nutrition in order to give herself the best chance of being in record-breaking form.
“I blew myself away, but all that preparation I did, and all the support I had behind me, it’s all worked out.” Whitehead, who travels the world as a professional shearer, will chase a new nine-hour solo record in December.