by Craig Heydon
Paralympic Games gold-medal winning sailors Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch capped a successful year after the pair won the title of Team of the Year at the 2012 Paralympian of the Year Awards.
Daniel Fitzgibbon & Liesl Tesch with their gold medals - Photo onEdition
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have been named Team of the Year at the 2012 Paralympian of the Year Awards, held in Sydney on Thursday night.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch, who won gold in the Skud 18 class at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, were announced as joint winners of the award, along with the Australian Wheelchair Rugby Team.
The Team of the Year Award capped off a very successful year for the pair, who finished on the podium at every event they contested, and won their Paralympic Games gold medal with a day to spare.
'I'm quite shocked at being awarded this honour,' said Fitzgibbon. 'I certainly didn't expect it given the field for Team of the Year was so strong.
'This award is good for sailing in Australia and it’s great to be recognised at an event like this,' he said. 'I honestly feel quite humbled and honored, it's awesome.'
It was the first time that either Fitzgibbon or Tesch had been recognised at the Paralympian of the Year Awards, with Tesch having just competed at her sixth straight Paralympic Games.
'It was such an honour to be up there alongside the Wheelchair Rugby Team,' said Tesch. 'Just like Dan I was a bit shocked by it, I was completely unprepared to win. It was a super night of gold, gold, gold.
'It was the first time that I’d been recognised like that, and the first time that sailing had been recognised, so it was a great night for me, Dan and the sport,' she said. 'I really didn’t think that we would win, it was such a red hot field with some amazing performances in there.
'It was also great to see Dan as a finalist in the Male Athlete of the Year category,' she said. 'It’s really hard as a team athlete to stand out and be in a group like that, highlighting what an amazing year we had.'
The event brought together hundreds of current and past Paralympians, giving Tesch a chance to catch up with former team mates from her Wheelchair Basketball days.
'It was an awesome night, like catching up with old family members,' said Tesch. 'The Paralympic Games have more than 20 years of history for me, it’s been a massive part of my life.'
The Australian Sailing Team would like to congratulate all of the winners at the 2012 Paralympian of the Year Awards. Swimmer Jacqueline Freney was named Paralympian of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year with sprinter Evan O’Hanlon Male Athlete of the Year.
There were tied winners for the Junior Athlete of the Year, with the honours split between Maddison Elliott and Rheed McCracken, with cycling head coach Peter Day named coach of the year. Cyclist Kieran Modra and shooter Libby Kosmala received the President’s Medal for Excellence in Sportsmanship, while swimmer Matthew Cowdrey received a special award following his record breaking achievements.