Sporting excellence was marked at RAF Wittering for the second year as the Station held its 2018 Sports Personality of the Year Awards on Friday.
Fitness and sports are essentials in Royal Air Force life. The Service has many sporting associations; from athletics to weightlifting and equestrian to archery, all of which enhance the operational effectiveness, fighting spirit and development of personnel.
Flight Lieutenant Nathan Jones was the guest speaker at the awards. After a spinal injury Flt Lt Jones went on to represent Great Britain at the Invictus Games, winning medals in cycling and swimming. During his speech Nathan stressed the importance of “Knowing yourself and knowing your body.”
Sports Personality of the Year at RAF Wittering is organised by the Station’s Physical Education Flight and there are four categories: Coach of the Year, Team of the Year, Most Valued Person and Sports Personality of the Year.
Air Commodore Mark Gilligan was the senior speaker at the dinner. After praising Flt Lt Jones’s many achievements, he said: “Sport has a remarkable capacity to draw people together and marks us out.”
Corporal Carl Hickman has rebuilt RAF Wittering’s boxing club, which has now grown to 22 members and continues to produce exceptional boxers. For this achievement, he was award Coach of the Year. After an outstanding year, Royal Air Force Wittering runners were awarded Team of the Year.
The Most Valued Person Award was given to Sergeant Darren Pipe. Giving huge amounts of his personal time, Sgt Pipe has participated in (and coached) football, triathlon, running, water polo and was an organiser of the RAF 100 cycle ride from London to Wittering. He described himself as “Shell shocked, over the moon and humbled” to have won an award.
The night, however, belonged to Flying Officer Rachel Clarke, who won RAF Wittering Sports Personality of the Year 2018. Rachel Clarke is an exceptional hockey player who has played at station level, represented the Royal Air Force and played in the Combined Services Team. She has shown exemplary leadership as both player and manager.
Rachel is also an accomplished runner having completed the Keswick to Barrow ultra-marathon and has raised money for the motor-neurone disease charity. She said: “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this. It’s such an honour even to be considered, but to win is incredible. I’ve always tried to be involved in sport and it was one of my main drivers to join the RAF.”
Group Captain Tony Keeling is Station Commander at RAF Wittering he said: “Congratulations to Flying Officer Clarke and all the winners for their well-deserved success tonight. Sport is something that we do individually or as a team, but actually it’s right that we recognise it properly because it does make a difference to our wellbeing, our metal resilience, and how we perform in our jobs.”
The Station Commander continued: “These awards do not organise themselves. Sergeant Rooney and our Physical Education Flight have given their own time and effort to make tonight a success. This level of commitment to sport and fitness, and the celebration of people’s success, is very impressive and they are an asset to the Station.”