GREAT Britain canoeist Robert Oliver says he has been left ‘overwhelmed’ after coming away with the top accolade at the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Sports Awards.
The 27-year-old picked up the top gong after being named Sportsman of the Year at the 11th annual awards ceremony, which was held at the Ricoh Arena last Thursday.
The Paralympic star had to have the lower section of his leg amputated following failed surgery in 2008 but bounced back to be crowned European Champion in the KL3 200m at the Senior European Paracanoe Sprint Championships earlier this year.
Robert, who lives in Kings Heath in Birmingham and trains at Solihull Canoe Club, now has his sights set on the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio where paracanoe will make its debut.
He said: “I’m honoured and overwhelmed to receive the award, I really didn’t think I was going to win.
“The reason I took up paracanoe is because it is one of the most extreme sports. It is outdoor all year round and you are battling either the raging heat or the freezing cold. It is hard because sometimes you are up against 35 mile an hour winds and torrential rain but I love it.
“My highlights this year have definitely been winning the European Championship in Czech Republic and then receiving a silver medal in the World Championships in Milan.
“Unfortunately following that, I dislocated my shoulder so I have been out for two months and I’m only just getting back on the water now with my aspirations set on the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
“We don’t need to compete until March for the first assessment but I want to be fully fit for that so I can battle for my place because there is really tough competition in the squad. I want to be the first person to represent Britain in paracanoe at the Paralympic Games.”
There was another winner from Solihull on the night with Old Silhillians Hockey Club taking home Community Club of the Year award.
And it is not the first award Old Silhillians Hockey Club has picked up this year, as it broke the record books in June to become the first English club ever to win the European Hockey Federation Club of the Year.
The club has also enjoyed significant growth in membership over this past year and was praised for its dedication to providing coaching sessions at more than 20 schools in the region.
Steve Tabb, chairman of Old Silhillians based in Copt Heath, in Knowle, said: “We were up against some really good competition in the category so we are very pleased to get recognition for all of the work our members do.
“A few years ago we had under 100 members and we are now up to just under 400 so we have had a lot of growth. We have brand new facilities and new teams, not always winning all of their games but we have a lot more people playing sport which is really good.”
The awards celebrate the cream of the sporting scene across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire including those who have made a tremendous contribution to sport in the professional and amateur fields.
A total of 16 award titles were handed out on the night recognising the achievements of both teams and individuals as well as volunteers and upcoming stars of the future.