‘It’s a fabulous celebration’ Ben Shephard on this year’s Pride of Sport Awards

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What made you want to get involved in the Mirror Pride of Sport Awards, in partnership with TSB?

I’ve been hosting them since it started. I’ve been on the judging panel of Pride of Britain and seen the impact that has on the winners, nominees and society as a whole – how we all come together to celebrate the great things about Britain.

Sport has been a huge part of my life – I’ve played grass roots rugby and football since I was a child.

The pride I had in representing my club and the commitment and hard work I saw from everybody, from the coaches to the groundsmen, made me realise just how special it is to be a part of that, so I was thrilled to be approached.

Also the fact we can now honour grass roots teams and players beside the elite sportsmen and women makes it a really exciting night.

People like Ben Stokes, who picked up the Inspirational Performance award this year, all  of them started at grass roots level at some point, and were trained by someone who wasn’t an elite coach who supported and nurtured them.

So there’s this lovely balance on the evening about sport, whatever the standard or level, coming together at a wonderful evening in beautiful hotel in London.

It’s a fabulous celebration.

Which sports stars do you think have gone the extra mile this year?

Unquestionably, Ben Stokes has been extraordinary.

His performances across the summer in the World Cup and the Ashes will stand the test of time.

That Ashes test was remarkable and will be held up for decades – if not longer – as one of the greatest innings ever.

The way the England rugby team performed right up to the final in Japan was also extraordinary, as was the England women’s football team in the World Cup.

England footballer Lucy Bronze was second in the female performances of the year and rightly so, what a talent she is.



Ben Shephard attending the Pride of Sport Awards 2019
Ben Shephard attending the Pride of Sport Awards 2019

The growth of women’s football and the fact people want to watch it  now is testament to how brilliantly they’ve done.

Also the work Raheem Stirling has done in standing up against racism continues to be hugely impressive.
When you get stars who are principled and honourable and go the extra mile it’s nice that we can shine a light on what they’ve achieved.

Do you have a personal sporting hero?

I’m a big fan of rugby and I still get shivers when I watch what Jonny Wilkinson managed to do in the 2003 World Cup. It was remarkable. To deliver on that scale.

If ever there was a symbol of dedication, hard work and relentless commitment it was Jonny kicking that drop goal. It’s always been up there for me.

And I’m a West Ham fan so Julian Dicks was always a huge hero of mine because he always played like a fan, he wore his heart on his sleeve and never gave anything less than 100%.

What are you most memorable moments from Pride of Sport?

There have been so many. One that will always stand out is meeting Ella Chadwick – who is still a friend. She won an award because she had a number of issues and operations but completed a charity run in Manchester, when she finds it very hard to run without her frame.

She also won a Pride of Britain  award on the back of that. And she’s won the hearts of the nation, singing on the X Factor.

There have been many moments like that where young people are recognised for what they’ve achieved and keep inspiring people.

There’s a winner this year – Josh Llewellyn-Jones –   who has cystic fibrosis and has never let that get in the way of him exceeding his own expectations. He has achieved the most extraordinary things in raising the profile of CF, running and swimming hundreds of miles.



Child of Courage award winner - Ella Chadwick
Child of Courage award winner – Ella Chadwick

At 18 he climbed Kilimanjaro – and CF restricts your ability to breathe – to the top. I’ve been up there and I could barely breathe. He also took part in a boxing match. He had a three round contest of two minutes. Incredibly inspiring.

Then we have the groups and clubs trying to make a difference to the area where they live. They aren’t doing it for individual praise but because they  want to make it accessible to young people.
We had a group of mountain bikers last year who were setting up mountain bike clubs in car parks when they were empty at night.

It was a brilliant way of using a resource, and giving kids out on bikes somewhere they can go and practice their skills in a safe environment.

There’s genius insight from some of these people that’s a testament to the British people.

What’s it like on the night – is it emotional?

Absolutely. We’ll be talking about people who sometimes have life- limiting illnesses going the extra mile. Honestly, the one thing that always causes me to break down in tears is sporting achievement and it can be kids scoring a goal on a Sunday or somebody winning an Olympic gold. I get ridiculously emotional.

Which Pride of Sport winners stood out for you – out of the non professionals?

There are a number. It’s really hard for me to say but Josh certainly stands out just because I know him and what he’s been through.

Olivia Gallagher who has competed in the Paralympics won an award a couple of years ago and went on and flourished. Paralympians really have to fight for the funding so they can train.

And Paralympian Hannah Cockroft. People such as Hannah picking up awards is so inspiring for young people and athletes everywhere, just because of that commitment and selflessness they put into that sport.



Should we put more of an emphasis on sport in schools?

Yes, you really can’t get enough. We’ve got a big issue in this country and globally with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It’s incredibly important for our mental health to be getting physical and running around and meeting other people – to learn about being part of a team.

Unfortunately there seems to have been a big drop off in the amount of sport and I would like to see more.
We measure schools on the academic qualifications and I’m not sure that’s the only guiding factor.

As a child, who were your sporting heroes?

I had a football coach who was brilliant. You could tell he really cared about the boys in his team.

I was also part of a rugby team and a guy called Roger – who has sadly died – took us under his wing, with another guy called Ivan. Over a number of years they got us into shape and then my dad became our coach.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad, we didn’t have much in common, I was an irritating, spotty, hormonal youth but suddenly we had this bond that was hugely important to both of us.

About 10 years ago I got into boxing for Sport Relief and boxed out of the Fitzroy Lodge. I saw the impact the guys there, Mark and Adam and Mick Carney, were having on the lives of young boys and girls in a pretty deprived area, and the nurturing and guidance they offered.

They are principled, passionate people, that have shared their love of a sport that helps guide hundreds of thousands of kids in ways they’ll never really understand.

Watch the Mirror Pride of Sport Awards, in partnership with TSB, on youtube.com/prideofsport
awards from December 11.



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