& opinion


Staged at the glamorous Hilton Hotel in Brighton, the 2003 Sussex Sports Federation Ball was a dazzling celebration of the University’s achievements over the past year. But amid the richness of the surroundings, the elaborate dinner, the beautiful ladies, the jazzy band playing in the background, pervaded a marvellous sense of unity among everyone present at the awards. Sussex admittedly had a mixed 2002-03 BUSA season, but underlying sport at this University is a healthy feeling of togetherness that bodes well for the future.

The awards were presented in large disco hall in which swamps of black-tied and elegantly dressed students danced, sung and rejoiced all night. Round tables were assigned to each sports team and two bars behind and adjacent to the tables served expensive drinks all night. A surfing simulation game sat next to one of the bars as a symbol of the sporting occasion. The band played at the front of the hall looking onto the dancefloor. And in the centre of the room, behind a screen showing footage of Sussex sport, a mini-stage was erected to dole out the awards. It was here that Tamsin Wicks, Sports Activity Officer and a chief organiser of the ball, gave the opening speech of the awards.

You knew you weren’t at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year when her arrival on stage prompted a hearty reciting of a Sussex sports anthem, featuring chants of "we’re on the piss again." But this was a poignant display of the communal atmosphere that characterised the awards and the Sports Federation itself.

Wicks cited some improvements for sport at Sussex next year. The Federation is notoriously under-funded, but it seems that cooperation between the Student Union and the University is getting better, albeit gradually. From 2004, greater financial resources will allow the organisation of a new sports programme, and teams will at last have their own kits. Most importantly, clubs will benefit from the recruitment of coaches next year. It is no surprise that karate athlete Clive Harvey, one of few students lucky enough to receive coaching, achieved one of Sussex’s best results last season when he won the gold medal in Kent last term. Harvey was rightly credited with full blues, while Zoltan Deines and Keith Collier shared the coach of the year award. In all, eighteen awards were handed out to fifteen individuals and four teams. Miles Arnott, the hockey team captain, was named sportsman of the year in the first of his two awards. As well as being a "general lovely bloke," Arnott guided the hockey team to a comfortable top two finish last term, and he has succeeded in encouraging non-players of the game to get involved with the team.

This was not a night about individuals, but if it belonged to anyone it was Adele Burrow. Her energy has made the S-Xtreme sports club very successful this year. During the autumn term, the club brought the official UK Bungy to campus for the first time, and has organised other events, such as parachuting and paintballing. On top of an individual award, Burrow was awarded sportswoman of the year, and S-Xtreme was named club of the year. She was naturally overawed by the three awards; "I knew we had a chance of doing well tonight, but I didn’t expect this," she said. Burrow will become Sports and Activities Officer in October, and her enthusiasm for sport should serve Sussex well next year.

A joint award for most improved team was given to the womens’ netball and womens’ rugby teams, leading to a mass of ecstatic girls hijacking the centre stage. The netball team gained promotion from their BUSA division while the rapidly emerging rugby girls managed to secure one victory in a tough league.

As expected, mens’ badminton won team of the year, after a wonderful season in which they gained promotion and only narrowly lost out to Lancaster University in the final of the BUSA plate competition. Captain Rob Twyman, who also received half blues, pointed to the attitude and discipline of the side as factors in their success. "We will lose some good players at the end of the year, but hopefully new students will come through, as they have this year" added Twyman. Twyman will enter his last year at the University next year and hinted to stepping down as captain, though he hopes to remain an integral part of Sussex badminton. The team will now train for the 2003/4 season when another promotion will put the boys in the premier BUSA badminton division.

The last award (half blues) of the night was presented by CJ Lee (Activities Centre Manager), to Wicks, who has coupled the job of sports and activities officer with helping the netball team. It is the pair of Lee and Wicks who have spearheaded sport at Sussex over the past year, and their massive popularity amongst members of the Sports Federation has been crucial in fostering the vibrant atmosphere that permeated these awards. Every individual or team seemed to feed off the awards given out to others, an example of the collective spirit which Wicks and Lee have been central to. The ceremony was brought to an end by Wicks’ stumble off the stage, and the dancefloor was soon crowded with students.

The awards highlighted a number of individuals and teams who are pushing Sussex sport forward, most notably Burrow and her S-Xtreme club. But more important was the unity felt between individuals, teams, and the sports community as a whole. With the promise of a new sports programme, the recruitment of coaches and an official Sussex kit for 2004, there has never been a better time to be involved with sport at this University.