Five locally based sporting legends will be the guest speakers at the Cook Islands Sports Awards tomorrow night.
Former Kiwi rugby league international Kevin Iro, Margaret Matenga (former Silver Fern), Geoff Halston (touch rugby), Sharlene Atai (former Kiwi Fern) and Brett Baudinet (tennis) will take part in a panel discussion at the event to be held at the Edgewater Resort and Spa.
Olympian Jane Nicholas and Tall Black head coach Pero Cameron were to be guest speakers for the annual awards. But due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions, the two couldn’t make it.
Owen Lewis, the secretary general of Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee, said the five panellists would be talking about their experience representing the country at the highest level.
“In a way this Covid-19 crisis has made us look internally. We have sporting stars from the yesteryears here and they have so much to offer and share in terms of skills and experience,” Lewis said.
The sports awards recognise and rewards the achievements of Cook Islands players and athletes from the 2019 season.
There will be 11 awards up for grabs at the event. The awards have been divided into three categories. Section A will feature Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year and Junior Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.
Sports Team of the Year and Sports Achievement of the Year make up Section B while Section C will comprise technical awards including administrator and coach of the year.
Lewis said they had some strong nominations for this year’s awards especially for the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.
The Sportsman of the Year award will see a tough battle between Alex Beddoes (athletics), Wesley Roberts (swimming), Brad Takairangi (rugby league) and Andre Tutaka-George (canoe & kayak).
Jane Nicholas (canoe & kayak), Matanoko McDonald (weightlifting), Kirsten Fisher-Marsters (swimming) and Luciana Nicholas (netball) are vying for the Sportswoman of the Year.
This year’s awards will also see a record number of guests attending.
Lewis said the event was nearly sold out with only two tables remaining as of yesterday.
Hugh Graham, the president of the National Olympic Committee, said there were few concerns about hosting the event at Edgewater because of the hotel being used as a quarantine facility for the returning Cook Islanders.
However Graham said they met with the hotel management about a fortnight ago and have received assurance there wouldn’t be any risk to guests attending the awards.
With international events put on hold due to Covid-19, Graham said the sports awards would give them an opportunity to reinforce their drive to focus on the development of sports locally.
He said the onus was on the sporting federations to work with the National Olympic Committee to develop sports next big local star.