Paris Olympic hopefuls Elijah Winnington and Kiera Gazzard are the 2022 Bond University Sportspersons of the year.
The pair were crowned at the Bond University Blues Gala event on Friday night where the all-conquering Bull Sharks women’s rugby side and coach Setu Naseri collected the Champion Team and Coach of the Year awards.
World champion Winnington’s claims on the University’s highest individual sporting honour were undeniable following a year in which he secured Gold in the 400m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games to accompany the Gold medal he won in the same event at the World Aquatic Championships in Budapest.
The 22-year-old left Birmingham with three Commonwealth Games Gold medals and one Bronze to the add to the Gold he won at his home games on the Gold Coast in 2018. He was a member of the victorious 4x100m and 4x200m men’s freestyle relay teams and claimed individual bronze in the 200m freestyle.
Winnington, who is completing a Bachelor of Business, is currently in Thailand on a training camp and was unable to accept his award in person but sent a video congratulating all the Blues awards recipients.
“I just wanted to say how honoured I am to receive the 2022 sportsman of the year award,’’ he said.
Winnington was chosen ahead of fellow nominees cricketer Matthew Kuhnemann who made his One Day International debut for Australia in 2022 against Sri Lanka and kayaker Pierre van der Westhuyzen who claimed silver and bronze medals at both the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup and Junior and U23 World Sprint Championships.
Artistic swimmer Gazzard won two Australian titles and finished 14th in the FINA Artistic Swimming World Series in 2022.
The Tokyo Olympian put herself squarely in the frame for another Olympic campaign by claiming Gold in the senior duet and senior free divisions at the Hancock Prospecting Australian Artistic Swimming National Championships.
“This is a tremendous honour and I’m very grateful to the judges for selecting me for this award,” she said.
She edged out Riewoldt Family AFL scholarship holder Mikayla Pauga who was a key member of the Brisbane Lions side that advanced to the 2022 AFLW Grand Final and mogul skier Claire Dooley who has completed a successful season on the European circuit.
Dooley was awarded the Elite Sports Scholar Award for achieving a 93 per cent 4.000 GPA.
Bond University Vice Chancellor Tim Brailsford congratulated all the Blues Award recipients and said it had been a tough task for the judges to select the individual winners given the sporting successes Bondies had enjoyed in 2022.
“The celebration of our student athletes and their performances from last year has highlighted another stellar set of achievements both individually and collectively,” he said.
“These achievements include Commonwealth Games medals, World Championship placings and team premierships.
“The nominees for the overall award are all deserved winners, but both Elijah and Kiera stand out by their performances under the pressure of international competition at the highest level.
“I am also very pleased to note that both are very good students and progressing well through their studies.’’