SOME six weeks after announcing her retirement, glory at the 2017 Leeds Sports Awards would have been a fitting end to Becky Gallantree’s career.
Yet the diver is already fully aware there is no chance of reclaiming her 2015 Sportswoman Of The Year title at the First Direct Arena on Tuesday, March 7.
Instead, it will be either Katy Marchant, Nicola Adams or Vicky Holland celebrating, with the trio of Rio 2016 Olympics medal winners forming the triumvirate of nominees vying to be named 2017 Sportswoman Of The Year,
And that’s quite all right with gracious Gallantree, who is effusive in her praise for the annual Leeds event and in full agreement that on this occasion she should play second fiddle to the city’s Olympic medal stars.
Now in its 14th year, the Leeds Sports Awards will move to a new home and the event’s biggest stage yet at the city’s First Direct Arena in just over two weeks’ time.
Organised by Sport Leeds, the awards first began as a relatively low key event back in 2004 but have grown in stature year on year with in excess of 500 people attending the 2016 event at New Dock Hall last year.
The event also took place at New Dock Hall in 2015 when Gallantree took centre-stage for being named Sportswoman Of The Year in recognition of her Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games gold alongside Alicia Blagg in the 3m synchro.
Leeds diving could scoop five more awards at the 2017 extravaganza, with both Jack Laugher and Chris Mears nominated for the sportsman of the year award as part of a shortlist of seven that also includes Alistair Brownlee, Jonathan Brownlee, Nile Wilson, Jonny Bairstow and Paul Bennett. Gallantree’s City Of Leeds Diving Club coach Ady Hinchliffe and his partner in crime Edwin Jongejans are also in battle with triathlon coaches Malcolm Brown and Jack Maitland to be named performance coach of the year.
The City Of Leeds Diving Club will also do battle against Leeds Gymnastics Club and West Leeds RUFC to be named club/team performance of the year. And on the Young Achievers front, Matty Lee will take on Hope Price, Jake Flood and Joe Fairburn in a bid to defend his Young Sportsman of the Year award, while diving club mates Lois Toulson and Kat Torrance are up against Georgia Coates and Macy Wood for the young female award.
Gallantree, though, has had to make way for Marchant, Adams or Holland – but even the diver herself says the nominations are “absolutely” the right call – and proof of the enormous strength in depth that Leeds sport has to offer as a whole. Gallantree told the YEP: “They are three really, really strong athletes there and I couldn’t be expected to be shortlisted over one of them because they have all had amazing years.
“Leeds is so strong in sport and it’s always an honour just to be nominated. I wish all the nominees all the best. I might have to miss them this year, I need to check my dates, but I would obviously love to be there. It would be great to see what it’s like at the Arena because I know it’s going to be a bigger event than it ever has been in the past.”
Even though Gallantree will miss out on the awards front, a winning visit to the main stage for the diver’s coach Hinchliffe would be hugely fitting, especially with Hinchliffe preparing to leave Leeds for his new role for Team Australia. Gallantree pondered: “They are up against the triathlon coaches Malcolm and Jack. That’s going to be an interesting result – tough to choose for the judges I imagine!”
The 2017 event also has a fitting title sponsor in LeedsBID which is focused on delivering an ambitious business plan to transform Leeds city centre.
The business-led, not for profit organisation is the largest UK Business Improvement District outside of London and represents over 1,000 businesses in Leeds city centre. Councillor James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for sport, said: “The Leeds Sports Awards is always a tremendous occasion which provides us as a city with the opportunity to come together and celebrate the amazing achievements of our local clubs, sporting stars and also very importantly our unsung heroes. This year’s event certainly promises to be one of the very best yet, given how brilliantly athletes like Chris and Jack performed in last year’s Rio Olympic Games.” Vice chair of Sport Leeds, Sally Nickson, added: “We’re thrilled to have LeedsBID on board and we’re looking forward to working together with them to make this year the best awards yet.”
Tickets for the event – which include a four-course dinner – are still on sale and can be brought from firstdirectarena.com