LIKE a good wine, Peebles athlete Linda Nicholson is improving with age.
Having previously won the Tweeddale Sports Council and the James McLean Trust’s Coach of the Year awards in 2007, the 50-year-old sporting all-rounder had her best year to date in 2010.
And in recognition of that achievement, she was named as Sports Personality of the Year at the Tweeddale Sports Council awards ceremony at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles on Friday night.
Speaking to TheSouthern after receiving her trophy, Linda said: “The award was a big surprise – I had no idea I had been nominated, so it came out of the blue. I felt specially honoured when I saw the names of the very talented sports people who had received it before me.”
Competing as a masters athlete in 2010, Linda won the Scottish and British indoor 60m and long jump titles, the Scottish outdoor 100m and long jump titles, and the British outdoor long jump title, together with the bronze in 100m.
She set new Scottish records both indoor and outdoor for long jump. Her outdoor jump of 4.87m at the British Championship broke the previous Scottish record set back in 1996 by 28cm, taking her to third on the UK all-time list. The jump also equalled the GB Championship best performance.
Over and above competing herself, Linda also coaches athletics and netball, where she has had great success producing national champions in both sports, three of her girls having achieved international selection.
Linda’s drive and ambition knows no bounds.
“I suppose I’m really determined and always like a challenge, and getting girls to take part in sport is a challenge, long jumping at 50 is a challenge – if someone tells me it can’t be done, then I’m up for it,” she explained.
“I’ve had huge rewards for my coaching efforts and my own training over the years so that has also helped encourage me.”
Linda’s commitment to sport is tremendous, bearing in mind she has a full-time job running her own research consultancy. It is just as well that Linda’s husband Gregor and daughter Faye are both committed to sport also, otherwise they might rarely see her.
She added: “Working full-time as well as coaching, training and competing is very hectic, but can be done with a lot of pre-planning and organisation. Basically, I combine whenever possible – so a work meeting in Fife means getting in a training session at Pitreavie. I’m usually up at 6.30am planning training sessions before I start work. Weekends haven’t been my own for years.”
Friday evening’s ceremony celebrated a wealth of talent in the Tweeddale area, which was acknowledged by guest of honour Jim Aitken in his address to the packed auditorium.
The former Scottish and British Lions loosehead prop said: “It’s fantastic to see such a varied range of sporting activities going on in an area which is relatively small compared to other parts of Scotland. I’m particularly impressed with the amount of national honours achievements which are being recognised here tonight.”
Other award winners on the night were: Junior Sports Personality of the Year – Lewis Buchanan (downhill mountain biking); Coach of the Year – Hilary Legg (tennis); Junior Coach of the Year – Lynn Duncan (swimming/hockey/gymnastics); Team of the Year – Kingsland Primary School P7 Cross Country Running Team; SALSC/sportscotland Service to Local Sport – David Swan (rugby). National honours: Scout Adkin, Susan Ridley (hill running); Scott Brash, Shannon Devenney (show jumping); Lewis Buchanan, Grant Ferguson, Lucy Grant, Katy Winton (mountain biking); Murray Davidson (football); Stacey Downie, Faye Nicholson, Olivia O’Hare (athletics); Caillie Douce, Jo Pettit (netball); Daniel Flannery, Craig Howie (golf); Isobel Knox (ultra-running); Cameron Murray (rugby); Jamie Noyes (sailing); Rebecca Oliver, Ellie Savage (cricket); Calum Gray, Donald Voas, Douglas Voas (Tetrathlon).