Ryan rides home to top personality stakes at awards

IN HIS own words, it’s been one hell of a year for Galashiels jockey Ryan Mania – and on Friday night, in his hometown, he was rewarded for his efforts and named 2012 Ettrick & Lauderdale Sports Personality of the Year, writes Fiona Scott.

The 23-year-old was one of many big names present at the event to be recognised for their contributions to their sport and, despite been shot into the limelight when being pipped at the post in this year’s Scottish Grand National, 2012 Braw Lad Mania was delighted to receive such an accolade from his own people.

He told TheSouthern: “From the Scottish National to Braw Lad to this, it’s just incredible and it’s great to be recognised in my own town. You don’t really get a lot of recognition as a jockey unless you win the big races on the big days, and people like me who ride day in day out don’t get noticed as much. It’s really nice.

“I love what I do. The excitement of seeing the young horses coming on and knowing they have the potential to be a big winner is second to none.”

The following day, Mania rode his ninth winner of the season when crossing the line ahead of the field at Kelso Racecourse on Twice Lucky.

Currently riding for trainer Sue Smith, Mania already has more than 100 winners to his name.

The evening was held at the Scottish Borders Campus where Ettrick & Lauderdale vice-chairman Ian Cooper carried out the duties of compere.

Paralympian Libby Clegg was guest of honour and entertained the packed auditorium with an insight into her London 2012 experience, while many other well-known faces introduced the awards in their own individual styles.

Despite an apparent aversion to equine creatures, Fred Blackie raised more than a few laughs when giving his tribute to Mania.

The first award of the evening was the combined Scottish Association of Local Sports Councils/sportscotland Service to Local Sport which was won by Melrose RFC fundraiser extraordinaire Vivien Chisholm.

Gala Cycling Club coach Peter Farquhar was named Junior Coach of the Year in recognition of his tireless work in helping develop local cycling talent.

“It’s all about the kids having fun,” he said.

Following great Scottish success at the London Olympics, judo is becoming increasingly popular – and it was Sportif coach Peter Gardiner who claimed the Coach of the Year honour.

Gardiner, who lives in Stow, has been a hugely successful coach for the last 30 years, and has spent the last 10 of those building up the Sportif network across the region and beyond with several Scottish and UK level players within its ranks.

The spotlight was turned on Borders cricket when 16-year-old Josh Irvine was announced as Junior Sports Personality of the Year.

Having played his first competitive game for Gala U13s at the age of 13, Irvine has progressed steadily through the ranks over the last three years, playing 12 games this past season with the Scotland 17s squad.

Last, but by no means least, came the Team of the Year and it was no surprise, mostly because the whole squad were taking up the back two rows of the auditorium, when Gala Rugby Club were named winners.

Having challenged for the league title and won the Scottish Cup last season, all agreed the award was thoroughly deserved.