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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 23:37 GMT
Cooke wins BBC honour
BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2003 Nicole Cooke
I think it has been one of the most nerve-wracking evenings of my life
Cycling star Nicole Cooke was voted the BBC Wales Sports Personality of 2003 at the prestigious event held in Cardiff on Monday night.

The 20-year-old from Wick was runner-up to Wales football manager Mark Hughes last year but went one step better thanks to an outstanding season.

Snooker world champion Mark Williams was the runner-up, with Wales rugby back Gareth Thomas coming third in the public voting from a shortlist of six Welsh sporting stars.

Also nominated were boxing champion Joe Calzaghe, athlete Hayley Tullett and Wales and Celtic football striker John Hartson.

"It's been one of the most nerve-wracking evenings of my life," Cooke said. "It's absolutely fantastic - I can't describe it."

Cooke thanked her family, who have stood by her through the bad times as well as the triumphs, and also praised the other members of her cycling team for their help and support.

But she reserved special thanks for the voting public: "I don't know why but something in my achievements this year must have caught the imagination to vote for me, so thank you very much."

Gareth Thomas
Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas had to settle for third place

This season Cooke became the youngest ever winner of the women's World Cup and the first Briton to achieve the honour.

In only her second year on the women's world circuit, Cooke served notice of her growing talent by winning the third and fourth stages of the nine-stage World Cup.

Her team, Ausra Gruodis-Safi, then took the bold decision to make Cooke the team leader over more experienced campaigners.

She repaid her Italian employers' faith by wrapping up the title with one stage still to go.

Cooke added a fourth British Road Race Championship title in five years in June, then a bronze in the season finale World Championships.

She enters the new year with her sights set on Olympic gold in Athens, with every chance of adding more glory to her growing CV.

"I've been over to Athens, I've seen the course and it's very much to my liking - so game on."

The Merit Award went to hurdling legend Colin Jackson, who finally hung up his spikes this year at the age of 36.

Jackson is Britain's best-ever sprint hurdler, winning numerous titles both indoors and outdoors.

Colin Jackson
Colin Jackson received the Merit Award for a glittering athletics career

He burst onto the scene in 1986, winning gold at the World Juniors, before embarking on a career that had everything bar an Olympic title.

But Jackson won everything else - the highlight being his 1993 World Championship gold, set in a world record time of 12.91 seconds that still stands today.

The Team Award went to football's Cardiff City, who under manager Lennie Lawrence won promotion from Division Two last season, courtesy of a thrilling play-off final win over QPR.

The Bluebirds have started the new season in similar form, currently standing a respectable seventh in Division One and within striking distance of the play-offs for the Premiership.

Defender Danny Gabbidon and striker Robert Earnshaw are two of the home-grown heroes at Ninian Park who have won rave reviews.

Both have carried their club form on to the international stage with Wales and are attracting envious interest from Premiership scouts.

The Carwyn James Junior Awards both went to swimmers, with David Davies and Rhiannon Henry scooping the titles.

The 18-year-old Davies has burst on to the British scene this year in his preferred 1500m freestyle event.

Davies claimed fourth place at the World Senior Championships this summer and is surely a hot tip to make the Great Britain team for the next years Olympics in Athens.

Just as impressive is 16-year-old Henry, who produced a stunning performance at the International Blind Sports Association World Championships in Quebec in September.

The Bridgend swimmer won a fistful of medals - four golds and two silvers - breaking the 800m world record in the process.

Over the last 12 months Henry has become the world number one over the 800m and the 100m freestyle, and next summer she aims to become Wales' youngest ever Paralympian.

A new award for BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year, the Unsung Hero Award, went to Nobby Woodcock for his work with the children of the Bettws Estate in Newport.

Mr Woodcock founded the Real Bettws Football Club in 1990 that provides eight youth teams from Under-18 down to Under-6 level.

Thousands of Newport children have benefited from his vision and dedication, including his two young sons.

Mr Woodcock will now go through to the national BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, where the UK winner will be announced.

BBC Wales Sports Personality 2003 Nicole Cooke
"It was one of the most nerve-wracking evenings of my life"

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