Energy, determination, leadership and professionalism were recognised at the RAF Sports Awards for 2023, where sportsmen and sportswomen celebrated another year of extraordinary success.
Air Vice-Marshal Ian ‘Cab’ Townsend, Air Officer Commanding No 22 Group and the Head of RAF Sport, presented the awards during the ceremony at Halton House in Buckinghamshire. In addition to its responsibility for the delivery of training within the RAF, No 22 Group manages all official RAF sports. The event was opened by Air Commodore Richard Fogden.
“I am humbled as ever by what our people achieve, this year has been no different, with some amazing nominations across myriad sports and endeavours.”
Air Commodore Richard Fogden
Director of RAF Sport
The ceremony recognised 22 nominees in eight categories from 15 different sporting disciplines, including three lifetime achievement awards. Squadron Leader Simon Almond from RAF Odiham took RAF Sportsman of the Year for his outstanding performance in Water Polo, which saw the RAF win the inter-services championship.
“It’s a massive honour to win it and I’m slightly lost for words if I’m honest. [Water Polo] has played a huge role in my career in the service and hopefully the award does that actually and showcases the sport to more individuals.”
Squadron Leader Almond
For her unwavering commitment to Rugby Union in the RAF and as an international player for Wales, Flying Officer Carys Williams-Morris won the RAF Sportswoman of the Year. Flying Officer Williams-Morris is an elite athlete who has represented her sport at the very highest levels and is in New Zealand at the time of writing but recorded a special video message.
“It really inspires me that we've got so many talented athletes in the RAF. This award is a huge honour but obviously wouldn't be possible without the help and support of the people around me, thank you. Thank you to my profession for allowing me to play the sport I love for my country, and I can't wait to get back to my career in the RAF.”
Flying Officer Williams-Morris
RAF Bobsledder, Flight Sergeant Mark Silva from RAF Wittering was awarded Coach of the Year for his work with the RAF Bobsleigh team. Flight Sergeant Silva has been instrumental has been in the development of RAF and GB athletes, leading to a multiple inter-service wins and world and European medals.
“I’m very lucky that’s it’s me receiving the award but there’s a team behind everybody isn’t there. From everybody here that helps me, I’m very fortunate. You have opportunities in life, and you have to be the best that you can and make them work for you.”
Flight Sergeant Silva
The RAF Hockey Ladies’ Senior Team were awarded Sport Team of the Year for their hugely successful season. This determined and focussed team won the outdoor inter-services competition for the first time in 10 years and, achieving the double, won both the indoor and outdoor for the first time in more than 25 years.
“I think it's a mixture of the determination from everyone that turns up but also the ethos that the teams build because it’s not only what you do in work, but it spills out into the sport as well. And then hopefully you get to the point where we are now.”
Flight Lieutenant Laura Kemp
The RAF Sports Administrator of the Year award recognises those people who work behind the scenes; putting in all the hard graft to make sure that our sportsmen and sportswomen can concentrate on what they do best. The 2023 Administrator of the Year was won by Warrant Officer Chris Slator of RAF Motorsports.
Warrant Officer Slator is a tireless innovator; using STEM engagement to firmly link primary duty activity to RAF Motorsports. His continuous improvement of the Armed Forces Race Challenge and the RAF team’s competitive portfolio reflects his passion for providing personnel the opportunity to take part in a sport which some might consider beyond their reach.
Three civilians were presented with awards for their voluntary contributions to RAF Sport. Mr Eamon Geraghty for his service to RAF Boxing, Mr Ian Webb for his work in RAF Gliding and Mr Ian Acey for contributions to RAF Telemarking. The Station of the Year was awarded to RAF Akrotiri for setting up an enormously successful Park Run.
Decades of hard work and commitment must be given before anyone can be considered for an RAF Lifetime Achievement Award. Three outstanding people were recognised for exactly that; Squadron Leader Damian Clayton for his 27 years of constant endeavour in RAF Rugby League, Warrant Officer Ann Thomas for her ceaseless work in RAF Powerlifting, and in particular, to Squadron Leader Paul Goodwin who has trained and supported three generations of RAF Sub-Aqua Divers.
“It is such a pleasure to come here today and recognise the achievements of so many inspirational individuals and teams across the spectrum of Royal Air Force sport. I have read so much about the sporting success across the Service, and it’s the individuals and teams in this room that are the pinnacle of that success.”
Air Vice-Marshal Townsend
Air Officer Commanding No. 22 Group