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The start of something extraordinary

Swimmers collect multiple awards at Wellington sports awards

Wellington swimmers came away with three awards at this year’s Dominion Post Wellington Sportsperson of the Year Awards at the TSB Arena on 12 June, the biggest haul in the past five years.

Six finalists were from the sport of swimming, including administrator Mark Berge and coach Gary Hurring, who won the award in 2012. Samantha Lee was a finalist for Sportswoman of the Year, after winning Emerging Sportswoman of the Year in 2011.

Para-swimmer Mary Fisher was the sole person to be nominated for two category awards, and won them both.

She collected the Sportswoman of the Year Award against last year’s winner, hockey player Anita Punt and Samantha Lee, and was awarded the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year for the second successive year over Santana Chapman, the country’s top-ranked deaf swimmer.

“I really did enjoy the awards night - it was a great atmosphere to be in. It was very cool to get the Sportswoman of the Year award after also being a finalist last year,” Fisher said.

Fisher set four world records and two Oceania records and broke the 33 second mark in the 50m butterfly at the Swimming New Zealand 2013 Short Course Championships.

But her highlight was assisting New Zealand to finish fourth on the medal table at the IPC Championships in Montreal last year.

She won five gold medals – 200m Individual medley, 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke, 100m freestyle and 50m freestyle - and was awarded the Prime Minister’s scholarship for her success in Montreal.

“Winning five events at Worlds was just amazing,” she said.

Porirua City Aquatics swimmer Ben Walsh picked up the Emerging Sportsman of the Year Award after breaking 32 age group Wellington records and seven open records. It was also his first nomination at the annual awards.

“I`m stoked, I’m just so happy to get the award,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get it –but I did think I had a chance.

“I was really nervous – my heart was beating really fast. It’s still feels weird – I`m not used to this.”

Walsh, who only turned 17 in February, credits his award to being the current Oceania Champion in the 100m breaststroke and 50m breaststroke, and coming runner up behind Olympian Glenn Snyders in both these events at the recent New Zealand Open Championships.

He also won all 14 races at the 2013 Wellington Short Course Championships.

In 2012 he was the Junior Male Sportsperson of the Year in the Porirua sports awards.

At the 2014 National Age Group Championships he qualified for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships team that will head to Hawaii in August this year.