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Wollmann joins stellar company

Shining stars: Junior Athletes of the Year Tyler Smith and Cecilia Wollmann (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Tyler Butterfield, Flora Duffy and Tyler Smith retained their Athlete of the Year titles as triathlon enjoyed another successful night at the 35th annual Sports Awards at The Fairmont Southampton.

Butterfield was crowned Male Athlete of the Year and Duffy Female Athlete of the Year after outstanding performances overseas in 2015, while a third triathlete, Smith, won his second straight Junior Male Athlete of the Year award. Sailor Cecilia Wollmann won a first Junior Female Athlete of the Year award after an outstanding year on the water.

Butterfield and Duffy both reside abroad and their awards were received by their fathers, Jim Butterfield, a former triathlete, and Charlie Duffy.

Butterfield got his 2015 season off to a good start last April, finishing third in 3hr 45 min 48 sec at the Ironman 70.3 Latin American Championships in Brazil.

In June, he was fifth at the Ironman Latin American Championship Brazil, posting a time of 8:05:22. He could have been in the mix for a podium finish had he not served a five-minute penalty for a draft violation.

Butterfield also finished an impressive fifth in the Mont-Tremblant Ironman 70.3 in Quebec, Canada, in June before he produced the greatest performance of his triathlon career by recording a sensational fifth-place finish at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in October in one of the most formidable fields assembled at Kona.

The 32-year-old beat his previous best of seventh three years ago, finishing strongly in the scorching conditions in 8:23:09 — exactly a minute quicker than in 2013. His scintillating showing in arguably the toughest race in the world — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and full marathon — proved once again that on his day, he is among triathlon’s long-distance elite.

Duffy had one of her best years in international competition last year, winning bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in July after success earlier in the year when she retained her title at the Xterra Asia Pacific Championships in New South Wales, Australia, in April — her tenth win in 11 outings in the off-road triathlon series. She won the Xterra South Africa Championships in February and was third in the Abu Dhabi triathlon in March.

After the Pan Am Games, the 27-year-old Duffy continued her fine form by winning another Xterra title in Colorado in July and then placing fourth in a formidable field at the ITU World Triathlon in Sweden. She then placed second in a World Series event in Canada before placing seventeenth in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago to place seventh overall in the series. “Best series finish ever, excited for 2016,” she tweeted afterwards.

More success came in the year when she won the Sardegna ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Sardinia, Italy. She then closed out her exciting year by retaining her Xterra World Championship title in Maui, Hawaii, and finished third in an invitational triathlon in Bahamas to confirm her status as one of the world’s top triathletes.

Duffy edged out Jessica Lewis, who won Bermuda’s first gold medal in the Parapan Am Games in the 100 metres last summer, shattering the Games record in the process.

Lewis, along with equestrian Patrick Nesbitt and sanshou fighter Sentwali Woolridge were also nominees for Athlete of the Year and received achievement awards Jessica Lewis, a wheelchair track athlete, and equestrian Virginia McKey.

Smith continued to show his enormous potential as a triathlete, placing sixth at the CAC Junior Elite Triathlon Championships in Guatemala and winning the Aon National Sprint Triathlon title in May before taking fourth place on debut in the Bermuda Day Half Marathon. It was the best performance by a 16-year-old since Trey Simons came fifteenth in 2010.

“I’m very pleased to receive this honour,” two-time winner Smith said. “I was a little surprised I won it. The other nominees, Matthew Oliveira and Jah-Nhai Perinchief, both had outstanding 2015 seasons, so I’m sure I was not a clear winner and just want to pay respects to both those great athletes.”

Smith also won the Tokio Millennium Re Sprint Triathlon in Hamilton last year, leading from start to finish to complete the 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5km run in 1:01:36.

Smith continues to be one of the top finishers in junior triathlons around the world, despite being among the youngest competing in his age group. He finished eleventh in the Junior Elite Canadian Triathlon Championships in Magog, Quebec, in July. That came on the heels of a tenth-place finish at the European Junior Elite Championships.

In October, Smith and Hawley became the youngest pair of winners in the Bank of Bermuda Foundation Triathlon in St George’s.

Smith, like Wollmann, received just over $5,000 apiece from the National Junior Athlete Sponshorship programme. They were among 12 athletes who were awarded funds totalling about $50,000 to aid in their development.

Smith flies out next week to represent Bermuda for the first time in the Carifta Games in Grenada. “Then the focus will be on triathlon for the rest of the year, Caribbean and Central American Championships, then Pan American Triathlon Championships and then depending on qualification, the World Championships and some races in between,” he said.

Wollmann won the inaugural Digicel Bermuda Dinghy Regatta last April in the Great Sound, topping the leaderboard in the single-handed Laser Radial and the Laser Radial Youth. She ended the year by finished fifteenth in the 54-strong Laser Radial girls fleet at the Youth World Championships in Malaysia in late December.

“It’s an awesome achievement and I’m really proud of myself,” said Wollmann of her award last night. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to win it, I was nominated for three years and hadn’t won it, but I thought I had a good chance this year.”

“I have the Olympics in Rio, I qualified in January and that is my main goal. I had lots of training in September and October in Uruguay and then went to Oman and Malaysia in November and December.”

Receiving special achievement awards were Terry Fray (cricket), Somers and Dede Cooper (sailing) and Kenneth Simmons (basketball) while Eldon Raynor (cricket), Mike Cherry, Lois Steede-Virgil (softball), Gladwin Lambert (sailing) and Gregory Grimes (football) got sports citations. A special recognition went to the St Geroge’s Cricket Club’s 1955 Cup Match Select team that beat West Indies team at Wellington Oval.

Minister’s awards to national sports athletes went to Derrick Brangman and LeiLanni Nesbeth in cricket, and Leah Smith and Tre Ming in football.