There's still time for nominations in the Express & Echo Sports Awards
THE deadline for nominations in the 10 different categories of the Express & Echo Sports Awards has been extended until midnight on Monday, January 28.
The ceremony – which is being held on February 26 at Exeter's Rougemont Hotel – will see a celebration of the region's Olympians, teams and other sports men and women.
But it is also an opportunity for amateur athletes, clubs and communities to win the recognition they deserve, with gongs for the best amateur sports personality, teacher, and non-professional club up for grabs.
Disabled sports people are also recognised, and last year's disabled sports personality of the year – para-badminton star David Follett – says he was 'overwhelmed' when he scooped the title.
Follett is currently ranked world No. 9 in all disability classifications of para-badminton and was crowned national champion in 2011 – four years after being left paralysed when a car hit him on Exmouth seafront.
And Follett is delighted that his award helped shed light on the role volunteers behind the scenes play in disability sports.
"Obviously there was a lot of other great candidates out there and I was really overwhelmed to win it," he said. "The unsung people are the people that put all the work into the sports and really make it happen.
"Like at our club at the Devon Racqueteers, where the coaches turn up week in, week out and put all the nets up and do everything voluntarily.
"It is great they get the recognition. It is the same with disabled sports people and the young athletes – it is amazing what they have achieved."
Looking back at the awards evening itself, Follett added: "I have never been to anything like that before, so to get dressed up and go to something quite fancy like that, for me, was quite a big thing and I know my parents really enjoyed it as well."
There is certainly a busy 2013 in store for Follett, who is set to marry fiancée Rebecca in October.
On the court, he continues to train hard and compete, while also pushing to see para-badminton introduced into the Paralympics in 2020.
"Our main aim is to get wheelchair badminton into the Paralympics, because it is not at the minute," he said.
"It is not going to be ready for 2016 (in Rio de Janeiro), but hopefully it will be for 2020. I will still be at the right age for that because I will be 31 then. Hopefully I have still got a chance.
"Obviously it is great that disabled sports is getting on a par with sports in general now.
"I think it showed that is happening, with the Paralympics and how many people tuned into watch that and took interest.
"It is great that we are promoting disabled sports a lot more now and I think awards like this show what can be achieved through disabled sports."
You can nominate people for this year's Echo Sports Awards by visiting www.exetersportsawards.co.uk. Nominations must be made by midnight on Monday, January 28.