IT proved to be a great night for watersports athletes and in particular the Culburra Beach Wright family at the 2007-08 Shoalhaven Sportstar of the Year awards at the Bomaderry Bowling Club on Friday night.
In front of a packed house, 33 local athletes fought it out for this year’s coveted award, but it was the brother and sister combination of Owen and Tyler Wright who took out the major awards.
Owen won the Shoalhaven Sportstar of the Year, becoming only the second athlete behind NBL basketballer Jeff Dowdell to win both the junior and then senior awards.
His younger sister Tyler made it a huge night for the Culburra Beach surfing family when she took out the Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen’s Club Junior Sportstar of the Year.
Not to be outdone inspirational marathon kayaker Dianne Chellew also won the Masters Award.
Unfortunately Owen was unable to be at the awards as he was surfing in Bali, trying to qualify for a world tour event, but in accepting the award on his behalf, his father Robbie said his son would be “stoked”.
“This is fantastic and I know he will be thrilled to bits to win the award, when we track him down,” he said.
“Finding Owen when he’s off surfing around the world at times can be difficult, but I’m sure he will be absolutely over the moon with this award.
“This is fantastic, unreal, for both Owen and Tyler, what a night!”
Owen has had a superb year culminating in being a member of the Australian team that won the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Le Penon Beach in France.
He also won the individual silver medal for boys under 18.
It capped a remarkable six months for Wright, that started in the national titles in South Australia when he won the under 18 division.
During March he won back-to-back events on the Australasian junior tour, with the Billabong Pro Junior Series in Taranki (New Zealand) against a classy international field, and he followed it up by taking out the Motorola Pro Junior event at Merewether.
Gaining a wildcard entrant for an aerial surfing event in April, Wright went through five rounds to win the Boost Mobile Junior Air Sho Challenge at Surfers Paradise.
Not to be outshone, younger sister Tyler (14) who took out the Junior Sportstar section (under 16s) also had an outstanding year in the surf.
She was also a member of the Australia’s team that took out the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Le Penon Beach (France) and also won an individual silver medal for girls under 18.
A year earlier she was starring in the 14 and under section of the Rusty Gromfest at Lennox Head.
In September, she won the Quiksilver NSW championships at Shelly Beach, where two outstanding early rides led to a substantial margin.
She made her mark in the Kustom Jetty Surf Pro Junior event at Bells Beach (Victoria), winning her heat and progressing to the third round.
After taking out the girls’ section of the Volcom Australian Championships at Manly, she became the youngest ever winner of an event in the SunSmart Pro Junior at Western Australia’s Trigg Beach.
“Wow,” she said after being presented with the award by Chairman of the Bernie Regan Sporting Trust Paul Goddard and special guest for the evening former Sportstar winner and Sydney premiership winning cricketer Philip Wells.
“I didn’t expect this,” she said.
“There is just so many good young sportspeople in the area, this is huge – a great honour.
“I must thank my parents in particular for all their support and my family which is just fantastic,
“This is a big thing for me when you consider the quality of this field.”
The other major award on Friday evening was the Masters division (Over 35s) which was taken out by champion kayaker Dianne Chellew.
The Wrights Beach paddler has swept all before her at the Masters World Cup in Hungary picking up two gold and a silver medal.
As a prelude to the 15th International Canoe Federation Marathon World Championships, 300 masters competitors took part in the event which was staged on the Danube River.
Four paddlers including Dianne represented Australia at the championships with Dianne winning silver in the women’s K1, beaten by an ex-Olympic sprint paddler from Latvia.
Fifty-six-year-old Dianne teamed with Hungarian Janos Grob to claim gold in the mixed K2 and that performance qualified Di to paddle in the women’s event.
There she teamed up with Maggie Vegh in the women’s K2 and again claimed gold.