Sam Willoughby Wins Sportsman of the Year Award
Cycling dominated The Advertiser/Channel 7 Sport Star of the Year Awards held at Adelaide Oval last week.
BMX world champion Sam Willoughby took the top honour, Australia’s men’s team pursuit was crowned team of the year, Tim Decker coach of the year and young gun Alex Manly was named junior sports star of the year.
It was domination not seen before at the state’s top sporting awards and reflects the strength of the cycling program at the SA Sports Institute.
Willoughby has known the joy of winning the world championship and the pain of losing it.
But now he also knows the satisfaction of avenging it after reclaiming his title as the best BMX rider in the world this year.
And he did it in style — winning both the time trial and race crown in one brilliant week in Rotterdam in July.
The 23-year-old’s outstanding season in Europe and the United States, which also included two world cup victories, saw him beat a field boasting a swag of Commonwealth Games medals for the Sports Star of the Year Award.
It is the second time Willoughby has won the prestigious award after he took the honours in 2009 when he was just 18.
“It’s a huge honour to be named the Sports Star of the Year, especially in cycling, South Australia is pretty jam packed with talent,” Willoughby said.
“Unfortunately with the way my sport is set out, I petty much never get to race in South Australia so it’s nice to get that recognition about what you do overseas.
“Every time BMX is up for these sort of awards against the bigger disciplines like road (cycling) and other mainstream sports, it’s great recognition.
“And every time I go back to Adelaide more and more people understand what I do and are pretty into it so it’s nice to see that growth and how much support there is.”
This year his entire early-season focus was on reclaiming the world title which he did in emphatic fashion in July.
“Each one (world title) is quite different. The one in 2012 was an Olympic year and it was a really busy year with world cups where we went from one race to the next through the qualification period,” he said.
“So that one was like the world champs being a race in the middle of it.
“I managed to win and it was obviously a huge thrill to win my first elite world title, but this one was something I had specifically prepared for over the course of three or four months.
“Then I basically just put my head down to make sure this one happened because I was pretty disappointed to lose it last year. “It was one of my biggest goals for the year and to wear the rainbow jersey, I know how much of a privilege it is to win that race.”
In an emotional result, Willoughby dedicated his 2014 world championship to the late mother of his girlfriend Alise Post who is also a BMX racer.
“Alise lost her mum in January and obviously it was a pretty tough time,” Willoughby said.
“So it was always in the back of my mind, I know when I first came over here (US) Alise’s mum Cheryl helped me out a lot with getting to races and that sort of thing.
“It was definitely special for both of us to do well at that world championship and dedicate it to her.”