Enjoying the local Suffolk Sports Awards and memories of meeting the great Barry McGuigan

Boxer Barry McGuigan, nicknamed the Clones Cyclone and a regular at the BBC Sports Personality of th

Boxer Barry McGuigan, nicknamed the Clones Cyclone and a regular at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Nino Severino: Wonderful to meet so many committed Suffolk sports stars and coaches – and memories of the BBC SPOTY awards, Elena and I attended.

What an incredible evening I had at the Suffolk Sports Awards, the local lead up to the National Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

I attended to present the Elena Baltacha Award, this is given to an outstanding individual that shows the positive outcome and difference that sport can make on someone’s life.

It really was quite humbling to be in the presence of so many utterly passionate individuals, many of whom receive no payment for their incredible work within our local sporting world.

I spoke to so many of the local coaches who attended, and it is really amazing to hear so many of the athlete’s stories as they are climbing up their sporting pathway to greatness.

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What really struck me was the devotion by so many coaches to their athletes.

I had a very long chat with Emily Ison who was nominated for Suffolk Topcoach Academy award, she coaches a young up-and-coming squash player called Lucy Turmel who is now ranked 74 in the world at the young age of 18.

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Although the squash governing body does help financially, the ultimate responsibility of financing the rise of this potential global squash star still remains with the player and her family. Emily was telling me, for this player to attend national training, it can cost her and her family around £400 before she evens hits a ball.

Emily incidentally was awarded the Suffolk Topcoach title, and in my opinion thoroughly deserves this, as her and her team are passionate about squash, and commit themselves to massive amounts of fundraising to support players such as Lucy Turmel to meet the cost of general training and attending their national training camps.

The evening at the Suffolk Sports Awards also took me back to so many glorious memories I have of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

Both Elena and I were privileged to be invited every year to the event, affectionately known as SPOTY; it is really one of the highlights of the sporting calendar for so many athletes, coaches and professionals from the sporting world.

From the moment you arrive at one of the prestigious venues where the event is held, the level of management and care of the guests by the SPOTY organisers is world class.

The first phase of the evening is to sign in, this is an experience in itself, as it’s a line-up of who’s who from the British and international world of sport, its then off to the red carpet experience for all the athletes who attend or are nominated for the awards.

From here it’s on to the VIP room, which is an area where everyone waits until the main event begins. Again this is an incredible experience as you have so many high profile individuals from the world of sport all in one massive area, and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with people we knew, such as Karen Pickering, our Ipswich-based swimming legend, and also players from the tennis tour, such as Petra Kvitova who we met at the awards the year she won Wimbledon, as I said, for me, it was always a privilege to be by Elena’s side attending the awards and meeting these great individuals.

One memory that always stays with me is from my love of boxing.

Elena and I were being served some food, when I noticed Barry McGuigan who was with his son had just walked over to stand next to me. I have to admit, that I am not prone to being star struck, but this was a golden moment, a chance to have a conversation with a fighter I grew up watching, a man who is a Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee and a former winner of the Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Barry is simply a boxing legend, an ex-world Champion, with 35 professional fights to his name, 32 wins, 28 by knockout with only three losses across his professional career.

If you are a boxing fan, and old enough to remember, Barry’s marque fights always started with his dad, Pat, climbing into the ring and singing “Danny Boy”, it really added to the flavour of the atmosphere and was a very emotional experience for so many people in attendance or watching the fight on telly.

Apart from my conversation with Barry, one of my memories of him, and this may sound a bit strange, were his hands, his hands are the size of a garden spade. With hands so massive, and the power and skill behind them, it’s easy to see why so many world class fighters ended their encounter with Barry, prone on the boxing ring floor!

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