Published: Nov 21, 2012 09:44:05 AM Updated: Mar 19, 2013 09:35:22 AM
Olympic swimming star Alicia Coutts and champion sailor Tom Slingsby were crowned joint winners of the 2012 Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Athlete of the Year at a gala presentation in Canberra on Friday night.
Coutts and Slingsby were chosen above an impressive list of finalists for the top AIS award which also included Evan O’Hanlon (Paralympic track and field), Anna Meares (track cycling), Ellie Cole (Paralympic swimming) and Malcolm Page (sailing).
Coutts’ award caps off an outstanding year which saw her claim five medals, including one gold, at the London 2012 Olympic Games. In doing so, she equalled Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe as the greatest Australian total medal winner at a single games.
Five-time Laser world champion Tom Slingsby similarly enjoyed an extremely successful year, winning gold at the London Olympics as well as winning two world championships.
AIS director Matt Favier congratulated Coutts and Slingsby but said any of the finalists would have been worthy winners.
“Alicia and Tom are obviously outstanding athletes and truly deserve this top award,” Favier said.
“I speak for everyone on the judging panel when I say it was an incredibly tough job picking not just the AIS athlete of the year but all the winners.
“It is on nights like this you realise how many great athletes we have, not just at the AIS but around Australia.”
Previous winners of the AIS athlete of the year include walker Kerry Saxby-Junna (1986-89), swimming greats Michael Klim (1998 and 1999) and Petria Thomas (2001 and 2002), gymnast Philippe Rizzo (2001 and 2006), aerial skier Lydia Lassila (2010) and track cyclist Anna Meares (2007 and 2011).
Yachting Australia athletes and staff were major winners this year with success across three awards.
Other major AIS awards presented at the AIS Arena in Canberra included:
AIS Junior Athlete of the Year: Sam Willoughby (BMX)
AIS Coach of the Year: Australian Sailing Team Coaching Group
AIS Team of the Year: Mens K4 1000 (Kayak)
AIS Program of the Year: AIS Sailing program.