The UK Sports Association is celebrating after two of its longest serving patrons were recognised at the inaugural Inas Awards recently and four of our My Sport, My Voice! Ambassadors were involved in hosting the evening.
UKSA’s President and Chairman, Bernard Atha was one of the first three inductees into the Inas Hall of Fame as reward for almost 60 years of campaigning for equality, justice and inclusion of people with learning disability in sport.
Paul Burns was also rewarded with the Unsung Hero Award for 16 years of volunteering as the UK Sports Association GB Team athletics manager at a glittering international award ceremony at Sheffield’s Hilton Hotel.
The awards have been created to celebrate the outstanding achievements of para-athletes with an intellectual disability and those who work tirelessly to support them. There were six winners in total from Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the UK.
The evening was co-hosted by My Sport, My Voice! Ambassador Dan Pepper. Pepper is a former Paralympian and double world champion swimmer. He recently retired from competitive swimming and coach’s swimmers of all ages and abilities.
Along with Pepper, the UK Sports Association was proud to have My Sport, My Voice! Ambassador and London 2012 gold medallist Bethany Firth shortlisted for the Best Female Athlete award. Fellow Ambassadors, Marcel Hodge and Peter Millar joined Firth on stage to present the Hall of Fame awards.
On achieving his honour, Atha said: “I have worked with organisations campaigning for people with learning disability for nearly 60 years and what strikes me most is all the wonderful, dedicated and just people who I have had the pleasure to meet during that time.
“I have never been motivated by personal awards or accolades but to be honoured by these people is a real privilege.”
Burns said: “I was very surprise to discover I had been nominated for the Unsung Hero award and even more so to win it.
“I’ve been an athletics coach for 29 years and involved with disability sport since 1999. It’s my love of sport, rather than awards that has motivated me for all these years. However, it is still a great honour to be recognised in this way.”
Pepper said: “It was a great honour and a privilege to co-host the first Inas Awards. It was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed making speeches and just being myself up on stage.
“Being chosen as a My Sport, My Voice! Ambassador was an honour and to be asked to host the awards was outstanding. I was delighted to co-host this event with a great team and honour coaches, athletes and volunteers that have done so much for learning disability sport.”
Amaury Russo, President of Inas added: “I was delighted that the My Sport, My Voice! project was officially launched at the Inas Awards Ceremony in Sheffield. The project complements the aims and ethos of Inas and I’m sure it will be a huge success.
“It was fantastic to have four of the My Sport, My Voice! Ambassadors present on the night and to hear about their preparations for the Global Games and Rio 2016. Dan Pepper did a great job of co-hosting the awards, once again proving that, with the right support, there is no limit to what can be achieved by people with learning disability.”
The two other inductees into the Hall of Fame were Bob Price, also of Great Britain and Jos Mulder of the Netherlands. Inas expects to hold the awards every two years to coincide with the Inas General Assembly.