ANDY VERNON enjoyed a reversal in fortunes to be named The News Sports Awards 2013 sportsman of the year.
The last 12 months have seen the former Stubbington Green runner become British champion in the 5,000m, win the British Athletics Cross Challenge and compete in front of tens of thousands of spectators at the Anniversary Games at the Olympic Stadium.
Vernon also captured the imagination of News readers after finishing as the top British athlete in the city’s Great South Run in October.
Last week he beat a stellar field of candidates, including England and Hampshire cricketer Michael Carberry, golfer Neil Raymond, taekwondo ace Ben Haines and boxing runner-up Greg Bridet, to the coveted sportsman-of-the-year award.
It’s an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact he was ruled out of crucial winter training with an Achilles injury.
Vernon said: ‘To see some of the names I was up against for this award, I have to be honest and say I am very surprised and also very honoured to have been voted The News sportsman of the year.
‘I was thinking people may not know too much about cross country or athletics or how big of an event the Great South Run is, so it’s a great honour for both myself and the sport.
‘I actually had a very mixed 2013, with an Achilles injury hampering my progress at the start of last year but I had a fantastic end to the year.
‘Success at both the British Championships and British Athletics Cross Challenge came after I pretty much had to cancel my winter training camp through injury concerns.
‘But an undoubted highlight was being the first Brit home in the Great South Run – my home event – in October.’
Vernon, who missed the awards ceremony at Fratton Park last Thursday because of training commitments, is now hoping to stay injury free as he prepares for a ‘big summer’, with both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games on the horizon.
He added: ‘I’m hopeful my form at the end of last year can continue ahead of what is to be a massive year for me.
‘I have a big summer coming up with both the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow.
‘And happily, I’m well ahead of where I was at this point last year and touch wood no injury problems yet.’
Meanwhile, talented boxer Bridet who made his Great Britain bow in Finland and landed the prestigious ABA title in 2013, was quick to dedicate his runner-up award to coach Q Shillingford and Heart of Portsmouth.
He said: ‘It’s another great honour for me, which I accept on behalf of my coaches and colleagues at Heart of Portsmouth.
‘It’s been a great year for me but I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of those around me.
‘Now I just have to continue working hard and improving and hopefully make some big events for England and GB.’