GSW PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Serendipity in the air at sports awards
THERE was a sense of serendipity in the air leading into the 2019 Clarence Valley Sports Awards with three-time DEX Sports Star of the Year (1986, 87, 88) Rodney Nugent returning to where his own journey started more than 30 years ago.
And so it proved when he presented the Grafton Shoppingworld People's Choice Award to joint winners Mitch Christiansen and Ashleigh Ensbey, who both received 22 per cent of the vote.
Mitch is also a sprinter with a disability and is aiming to reach similar heights to those achieved by Mr Nugent, who competed at two Paralympics and won five gold medals.
Earlier in the night Mitch's family successfully bid for a Korean jacket custom-made for Nugent when he competed at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics.
"He was inspiring, and the jacket will be special to me," Mitch said.
Mitch and Ashley were embroiled in a friendly battle over the past week, as friends and family campaigned on social media to gain support, resulting in a record 2801 total votes.
The final tally was too close to call, with the $250 voucher at a Grafton Shoppingworld store of choice split between the two. Mitch said his $125 will go towards an Apple Watch at Big W.
"It was fun watching the votes go back and forth," Mitch said. "I'm pretty happy for both of us.
"I had friends in Sydney, Armidale and everywhere voting and a few friends at work."
Mitch is hoping to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics from August 25 to September 6.
"I'm about half a second off the Australian record," he said. "If I can break it I automatically qualify for Tokyo.
"It's mainly my starts. I normally rock back before I run, I'm going to start using blocks.
"I'm pretty confident, I just have to keep eating healthy like I have been and train hard."