IT was a night of champions.
On Friday, Scotland’s sporting heroes came together to celebrate the best of the best for a wonderful cause.
The Nordoff Robbins Scotland Sporting Awards turned out to be a fantastic evening in Prestonfield House in Edinburgh. It was a ceremony to honour the stars of Scottish sport and over the past eight weeks we’ve revealed the categories and nominees.
The glitzy ceremony saw legends like football hero Alex McLeish and Olympian Dame Katherine Grainger walk off with top awards.As well as iconic names from the top level of Scottish sport, community champions and amateur sides were also honoured.
And the country’s Paralympic heroes from Rio were praised in a ceremony hosted by Sky Sports’ David Tanner. The memorable evening was the first ever Scottish Sporting Awards and was held by one of Scotland’s biggest charities – Nordoff Robbins Scotland (NRS).
The awards night was the brainchild of Sunday Post columnist Donald MacLeod, chairman of NRS.The man of the hour was undoubtedly Aberdeen, Rangers and Scotland legend Alex McLeish who picked up the Lifetime Achievement award for his career both as a player and a manager.
After picking up his gong, presented by Scottish football legend Archie McPherson, a beaming McLeish said: “It’s a thrill and an honour to be recognised like this. These sorts of awards make me so proud and make me think of my mum, Jean, and my dad, Alex.
“But also they make me think of the love and thanks I have to have such a wonderful family to support me.
“I want to thank them – my wife Jill, my kids Jon, Jamie and Rebecca, and my grandchildren Leo and Rex – who are with me every step of the way.
“I also want to thank Nordoff Robbins Scotland for the award.
“The work they do is so important and it’s a privilege for me to be recognised by such a wonderful charity and The Sunday Post.”
Also picking up her second big award of the past few weeks was Olympic rowing hero Dame Katherine Grainger.
It was only last week she was granted a damehood on the honours list – and Katherine added to that with her Outstanding Contribution to Sport award
Katherine is Great Britain’s finest-ever woman rower and our most decorated female Olympian, landing medals in five separate games – Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Welsh striker John Hartson scored more than 100 goals for Celtic during his career – but it wasn’t his exploits on the pitch that earned him the Ambassador of Sport Award.
John was struck down with testicular cancer in 2009 and endured a brain operation to remove a tumour.
As part of his treatment John underwent 67 chemotherapy treatments.
His fight for fitness inspired him to start the John Hartson Foundation, a testicular cancer charity.
“I’m proud of the charity work I’ve carried out since retiring from football – I think it’s made my playing career look average,” laughed Celtic legend John.
“I’m immensely proud to be honoured at the Scottish Sporting Awards and by Nordoff Robbins. I have to give the whole team at the John Hartson Foundation credit and I’m just gutted I couldn’t be there to pick up my award. Thankfully, a great friend of mine, Murdo MacLeod, who’s an ambassador for the charity, was there to pick it up on my behalf.”
John’s charity work began in earnest after battling back from cancer several years ago.
“Seven years ago I was lying on the operating table after developing a brain tumour and testicular cancer.
“It looked bleak but it gave me a determination to work hard for good causes and since then we’ve raised £800,000 for great causes.”
Special guest, Andrew McIntyre who sings in Nordoff Robbins Scotland’s choir for adults with disabilitie spoke to the guests about his gymnastics success. A multi-medallist, this year Andrew will be part of the West of Scotland team and competing at the Special Olympics in Sheffield. Click to hear his speech.
Sunday Post columnist Ross King sent a special video from Los Angeles to congratulate the winner of the Team of the Year award. Partick Thistle Amputees FC were presented with the trophy by our golfing columnist Bernard Gallacher.
Legendary swimming coach Ann Dickson, of Perth City Swim Club, taught Stephen Milne and Camilla Hattersley, who competed at Rio 2016.
And she was named our Coach of the Year, in a category presented by Sunday Post editor Richard Prest, for more than two decades of service to swimming in Scotland.
But it wasn’t just about looking back – our sporting heroes of tomorrow were also singled out for praise.
Caroline Weir has been a midfield sensation for both Scotland and Liverpool Ladies. She’s been named Fans’ Player of the Year for the Reds, and last month was awarded the Player of the Year for the national side.
On Friday a delighted Caroline – who’s only 21 – was given the Sporting Breakthrough award by Sunday Post rugby columnist David Sole.
“Winning the Player of the Year awards was a huge honour, and this is too,” said Caroline. “It was exciting to see so many sporting successes in Scotland honoured.”
Cyclist Neil Fachie brought glory home to Aberdeen at the Paralympic Games in Rio last year with a fantastic silver in the Tandem B Kilo. He took the stage after being presented with the Men’s Parasport Personality of the Year award.
And he was followed by Maria Lyle, who took the Women’s Parasport Personality award. The 17-year-old sprinting sensation has already won five gold medals at the European Championships, and a silver and two bronze medals in Rio.
Team GB alpine skier Nicole Ritchie was given the Action Sport award. She’s currently the Scottish Indoor champion – a title she’s won four years running – and has also held the Outdoor Artificial title since 2011.
Local hero Alex Brown was stunned to be given the Unsung Hero award for his work setting up charity the Blue Eyes Sport Foundation. Alex founded the charity on his 50th birthday and since then it has given £25,000 to good sporting causes in the local area and across Scotland
The winners, sponsors and guests then partied into the night accompanied by a rousing set from The Voice star Stevie McCrorie.