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Triathletes given top billing at awards

A glimpse into the future: Wollmann, left, and Perinchief take home their Junior Athlete of the Year awards at the Fairmont Southampton (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Triathletes continued to dominate the Government Sports Awards, with Tyler Butterfield and Flora Duffy retaining their male and female Athlete of the Year titles at the Fairmont Southampton last night.

It was the fourth straight win for Butterfield, matching the four victories achieved by triple jumper Brian Wellman between 1992 and 95, while Duffy made it three wins on the trot and four in five years. Butterfield beat out swimmer Julian Fletcher and cyclist Dominique Mayho.

Duffy was an overwhelming favourite for the women’s accolade after claiming three world titles last year: the ITU World Triathlon series, the Xterra World Championship and the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship. She also placed eighth in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She was selected ahead of swimmer Rebecca Heyliger and rower Shelley Pearson.

“I thank you on behalf of Flora who is in South Africa right now recovering from an injury, which is worrying me,” said proud father Charlie Duffy.

“I’m sure she would want me to express her thanks for the support she got leading up to the Olympics. She felt it and was really touched by it. When she came back in November I went with her around town and people would come up to her and hug her and say how proud they were of her.

“It was amazing, but she was eighth and disappointed, although she handled it pretty well. It was not what she wanted, but nobody ever said, ‘You let us down a bit’, so thanks to Bermuda for that.”

Jim Butterfield also did the honours for son Tyler who is lives in Boulder, Colorado. He had a mixed year after battling with injury and illness, but still had some strong performances, including a thirteenth at the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

“Tyler would be shocked, the competition was very stiff,” Jim said. “He’s up each morning about 5am, swims and after a light breakfast he spends 80 or so miles on the bike and then a long run.

“I don’t know how he does it, but he would be humbled by this recognition tonight. He’s going to go on fighting, I can assure you, for several more years because the Ironman in Hawaii is what drives him every day.

“He would also want to recognise Patty Petty who is in the crowd tonight. Patty is the one he falls back on all the time. She’s not a coach, but has been a mentor who has helped him for the last 15 or 20 years.”

The 36th awards saw sailor Cecilia Wollmann retain her Junior Female Athlete of the Year title, while high jumper Jah-Nhai Perinchief took the junior male award.

The award serves as a boost for Wollmann as she gears up for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup with Team BDA.

She was the island’s youngest Olympian in Rio.

“There are so many good youth athletes coming up in Bermuda so to be recognised is really awesome,” Wollmann said.

“I’m really proud. I’m taking a gap year off so we’ve been getting out on the water a lot with a lot of gym hours.”

Perinchief, who attends Iowa Central Junior College, was also honoured to pick up his award. “It’s a big accomplishment and it’s been a lot of hard work,” he said.

“I had a little hiccup in my indoor season when I got injured early in the season — and still don’t know what is wrong — although it isn’t something that can stop me from jumping. I’m waiting to see if I have to take a little break, but I’ve been resting and it feels a lot better.”

There was an emotional tribute paid to former Bermuda Olympic Association general secretary Philip Guishard who died last summer. He received a Special Recognition award and was given a standing ovation.

Minister Awards went to Delray Rawlins and LeiLanni Nesbeth in cricket and Angelo Simmons and Aaliyah Nolan in football.

Rawlins also received a Junior Achievement Award, along with Perinchief, cyclist Matthew Oliviera, triathlete Erica Hawley, high jumper Sakari Famous, triathlete Tyler Smith and Wollmann.

Appreciation Awards were handed to Tokio Millennium Re for its support of cricket, ABC Football Foundation and Bermuda Pacers Track Club.

Special Achievement Awards went to Oscar Lightbourne and Garon Wilkinson for their involvement in boxing and martial arts, Peter Dunne in cycling, Janeiro Tucker for cricket, the Bermuda Under-15 girls football team and Bermuda Under-20 men’s football team. Andrew Bascome also received a Sports Citation for his service to football.