ANDY VERNON reflected on a stellar 2014 after defending his sportsman of the year crown at The News Sports Awards and revealed: The hard work paid off.
The Stubbington athlete enjoyed a spectacular season on the track with a silver medal in the 10,000m and a bronze in the 5,000m at the summer European Championships in Zurich.
Modest Vernon insisted he was not expecting to be honoured by readers of The News for a second year in succession at the Kings Theatre last week.
But the ‘delighted’ 29-year-old also joked he wasn’t yet ready to relinquish his prestigious title, with the welcome surprise capping a remarkable year in the sport.
He said: ‘I’m delighted – I won the award last year, so on that basis alone, I wasn’t really expecting to win it again this time round.
‘I didn’t want to let it go, though!
‘People put the word sacrifice out there a lot but when it (athletics) is something you love doing, then I don’t view certain decisions as sacrifices.
‘They are life choices that you make.
‘You have to eat really well, go to bed early and get up and train every single day, even when you’re tired.
‘But when that pays off, it just makes everything worthwhile.’
Vernon was at his fluent best in August as he completed a memorable European Championships double for Team GB alongside gold-medal winning team-mate Mo Farah.
The long-distance ace, who started his career with Stubbington Green Runners, was quick to pay tribute to those who, like himself, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make success possible.
He said: ‘I remember crossing the line for the 10,000 metres and although I was elated with getting the silver medal, I was also just so relieved.
‘Four days later I had the 5k and I knew that was going to be really hard because everyone else I was racing against, apart from Mo, was really fresh – I knew I wasn’t.
‘Much of it (Vernon’s success) was down to British Athletics’ medical team – the physios, masseuse, doctors – they didn’t really allow you to fail.’
A hamstring tendon injury aggravated in the Great South Run in October left frustrated Vernon sidelined over the winter, though.
But a recent return to running has left the proud Pompey fan hungrier than ever to claim a maiden victory in Europe’s leading 10-mile road race.
He said: ‘Last week saw my first pain-free day of running and hopefully the injury has turned the corner.
‘The Portsmouth Great South Run, is my home race and I will definitely still be doing it for years to come.
‘It is a race that I really want to win!’
Sportsman of the year runner-up Scott Gregory toasted the best year of his career at the Southsea ceremony.
The Waterlooville-based golfer, 20, reached the final of the English Amateur Golf Championship and earned a place in the England squad
He said: ‘It was the best year of my career and I feel I have made such a massive improvement in my game.
‘It’s a great honour to have even been nominated alongside some of those other sportsmen so I was really pleased to be runner-up.
‘Last year gave me massive confidence in my ability to compete at the top level in amateur golf.
‘But I’ve worked so hard this winter and I’m looking to improve even more this year.’