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Aberdeen’s Sports Awards 2022 – Winter sport talents Kirsty Muir and Katie Guest win categories, with Fit Like Joggers awarded Community gong

Team GB's Kirsty Muir first started skiing on the dry slopes at Aberdeen Snowsports Centre.
Team GB's Kirsty Muir first started skiing on the dry slopes at Aberdeen Snowsports Centre.

Kirsty Muir has been named Aberdeen’s Sports Awards Young Sports Achiever of the Year after establishing herself as one of the best freestyle skiers on the planet.

The Evening Express-organised awards, supported by Samsung Electronics, took place at P&J Live on Tuesday evening.

Although it was outside the nomination period for the  awards, Muir has hit the headlines in recent weeks by reaching the finals of the Big Air and Slopestyle events at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

However, the 17-year-old’s exploits during the nomination period were pretty special, too.

In 2020, the Bucksburn Academy pupil won Big Air silver at the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, before landing her first World Cup medal – also a silver – in Colorado in 2021, competing against adults.

Kirsty Muir’s dad, Jim, accepted her Young Achiever Award at Aberdeen’s Sports Awards.

With Muir away competing in Switzerland, dad Jim accepted the award on her behalf.

On Kirsty winning the Active Balance-sponsored category at P&J Live – which she previously won in 2018 – Jim said: “It’s quite emotional. We’ve been here a few times before – it’s lovely to see it all come together.

“We’re really proud of her. She did herself proud at the Winter Olympics, and she did Aberdeen proud.

“She really went for it and did her best.”

Early in the pandemic, Muir was restricted to home workouts and cycling, but it didn’t seem to slow her development ahead of a period where she also showed up well in other World Cup events to finish second in the Slopestyle standings for the season, as well as being shortlisted for the Piotr Nurowski prize, which recognises the best young European winter athlete, last year.

It has been quite the ascent for the Bucksburn Academy pupil, who started her skiing journey aged three on the Aberdeen Snowsports Centre dry slope at Garthdee and somehow manages to also land straight As at school amid a hectic schedule, which includes travel to a specialist training facility in Manchester where she can hone her high-octane tricks.

Muir’s Olympic finishes of fifth, in the Big Air, and eighth in Slopestyle, despite still being a teenager, suggest she’s just getting started.

Jim added: “Kirsty just wants to achieve the best she can.

“There’s World Championships and Olympics, but it’s about her having fun.

“She really wants to make a life out of it, to have fun and inspire other people – I think she can do that.”

Muir beat Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club’s running brothers, Kai and Rhys Crawford, to the prize.

Student Sports Achiever of the Year

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Para-skiing guide Katie Guest has been awarded Student Sports Achiever at Aberdeen’s Sports Awards, having balanced her academic pursuits with earning qualification for the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics.

Guest, 26, combines studying for a masters degree in physiotherapy at Robert Gordon’s University with her role as a guide for ParalympicsGB.

Last summer, Guest began working with visually-impaired skier Menna Fitzpatrick – who returned from the 2018 PyeongChang Games in South Korea with four gold medals and went into this year’s Games as Britain’s most-decorated Winter Paralympian.

Katie Guest was named the Student Sports Achiever at Aberdeen’s Sports Awards.

In a cruel twist of fate, a positive Covid test two weeks before the Games began meant Guest was unable to fly out and compete with her athlete, with stand-in Gary Smith guiding Fitzpatrick in China instead.

Nevertheless, the judges were impressed by how Perth native Guest has handled guiding – something she got involved in after bringing her own skiing career to a close in 2015 – and studying at the same time, especially in the build-up to an event of the magnitude of the Paralympics.

Guest said: “It’s been such an amazing year, and it is a lot of hard work.

“So to get that recognised is just amazing, and I really hope to inspire other people to join in and not only take part in visually-impaired ski racing, but guide them as well.

It was really gutting to miss out on the Winter Paralympics because it would have been an amazing experience, but I’m so glad Menna went out and still got her silver and bronze medals.

“It’s really nice to know that you’ve been part of that team and they’ve done well.

“Everyone in my shoes would have loved to have been there, but it’s really nice to see Menna go out and do well.

“I’ve worked with her all season. I know the highs and lows we’ve been through, and she’s gone out and finished on a high – it’s an amazing thing to be part of.”

The relationship between para skier and guide is all-important, given the speeds involved and technical nature of the courses in Alpine skiing, and is developed by sessions out on the slopes which can last up to six hours.

Using a combination of bright clothing and two-way Bluetooth headsets, guides like Guest help their athletes negotiate changes in terrain as they head down the piste.

Training commitments have meant Guest spent significant periods away from her flat in Garthdee, training at an indoor facility in Manchester or in Continental Europe. However, she managed to keep up with her degree online, working away in the afternoons following gruelling sessions.

Katie Guest in action.

Veteran/Masters Sports Achiever of the Year

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James MacGregor won Aberdeen’s Sports Awards Veteran/Master Sports Achiever of the Year after being ranked inside the world’s top-10 over-55 high jump contenders.

The 6ft 3 Scottish record-holder is an oil and gas industry supply chain manager by day, but, in the evenings and at weekends, he is among the planet’s elite masters athletes.

James MacGregor with his Veteran Masters / Sports Achiever Award.

During the nomination period, the 56-year-old – who returned to high jump aged 45, having left the sport as a teenager – twice cleared 1m 61cms.

As well as setting a new national mark for a jumper of his vintage, he also won the Scottish title and finished second at the British Championships.

Despite being ranked ninth among the world’s over-55 jumpers following the sport’s return from the initial Covid lockdown, the complications of the pandemic meant the Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club athlete missed out on a trip to the World Championships in Canada.

Nevertheless, with a few seasons in the over-55 category remaining, he’s determined to compete in the event, and also has one eye on further Scottish bests when he reaches the over-60 age group – and beyond.

Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club masters high jumper James MacGregor.

St Andrews native Jim’s return to high jump was sparked by the opening of Aberdeen Sports Village in 2009.

However, like many grassroots athletes, in 2020, he was locked out of his normal training facilities due the coronavirus crisis.

The judges noted how Jim took this in his stride and, also like thousands in the region, trained how he could, including run-ups without actually jumping in the absence of landing mats or bars.

His dedication was rewarded, with the veteran saying:  “I was genuinely surprised how it all came back. I think a lot of it’s muscle memory.

“I was expecting to have a big dip and then build it up again, but I wasn’t far off where I was before lockdown.”

Community Sports Project of the Year

Sponsored by Burness Paull

Fit Like Joggers have been awarded Aberdeen’s Sports Awards Community Sports Project of the Year after impressing the judges with their fun approach to promoting physical and mental wellbeing in city.

Fit Like Joggers were named the Community Sports Project of the Year.

With an impressive membership of 270, the West End-based group caters to both serious and social runners, with two morning and two evening runs each week for all different abilities. ‘FLJs’ also run regular Couch to 5K programmes to help beginners to get involved in running.

The nomination for the project said FLJs “straddles positively all walks of life, with members in their teens to senior citizens, it has members from many cultures, backgrounds and orientation, yet there exists a level of comradery and mutual encouragement.”

This focus on inclusivity impressed the judges, as did the group’s determination to create a real community, with efforts like setting up their own purple gazebo for FLJs members at running festivals across the area – giving family, friends and other members a place from which to cheer on those runners who take part in races from 5ks to ultra-marathons.

Fancy dress fun runs with stops at members houses for refreshments are another example of the diverse ways in which the group has helped people get active, but also ensured they’ve created a sociable, fun outlet for all of the people involved.

Despite a litany of activities, Fit Like Joggers members aren’t charged fees and the club is operated by volunteers, from its administrators to run leaders.

One of Fit Like Joggers’ Couch to 5K groups. Picture by Scott Baxter

They fundraise through their events, which helps pay for expenses, fund further events, as well as their distinctive purple running clothing and charity work, including making an impact further afield by sponsoring sponsors Kenyan schoolboy David Kariuki Mwaniki through the Gathimba Edwards Foundation.

Young Coach of the Year

Sponsored by Original 106

Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club coach Aaron Odentz’s track record of success with endurance runners has seen him recognised in Aberdeen’s Sports Awards.

Odentz, 22, has been named Young Coach of the Year for his work with two groups of athletes at the club – spanning seven voluntary weekly sessions at both Aberdeen Sports Village and Balgownie – during the nomination period.

The Dyce coach’s ‘level 1’ group, made up of more than 20 athletes aged 12-15, picked up national relay medals under Odentz’s stewardship, while his top-group ‘level 3’ athletes, aged between 16 and 30, have achieved Scottish and British success across track, road and hill running events.

Aaron Odentz was named the Young Coach of the Year.

After taking up his coaching role mid-pandemic, Odentz was praised for providing well-prepared, personalised plans for his runners, as well as his communication, with promising Aberdeen AAC athletes like Kai Crawford, Ben Nelson, Hannah Cameron and Adam Brown all setting new personal bests under his watch.

Despite his relatively young age compared to some of those he is working with, his runners have ‘grown to rely on and trust the direction and leadership of Aaron’.

Again, despite being in a voluntary role, the nomination submitted on behalf of Odentz said his ‘metaphorical door is always open’ to discuss training, emphasising the ‘constant dialogue’  and ‘ethos of approachability’ he has nurtured.

It added: “The success Aaron has generated as a coach is in part due to his work behind the scenes as well as on the track.”

This year’s Aberdeen’s Sports Awards sponsors –