Winning back-to-back world titles has propelled Gase Sanita to the top of the Marlborough sporting tree.
The 29-year-old mixed martial arts exponent was named the province’s Sportsperson of the Year at the annual awards evening on Monday night.
Gase made history late last year when she became the first woman to win a second amateur MMA world title, successfully defending her 2017 women’s lightweight crown at the Unified World Championships in Bahrain.
Gase was just the fourth athlete to retain a world championships gold medal, and the first woman to join the iconic list of two-time amateur world champions.
Over 350 athletes from more than 50 nations took part in the championships.
Gase initially took out the MoreFM Sportswoman of the Year title at Monday’s awards before going on to claim the province’s premier accolade.
Earlier in the night, the junior (under-19) awards went to a couple of rapidly-rising stars.
Tennis player Jade Otway, 16, took out the House of Travel Junior Sportswoman of the Year award. Jade, who is ranked No 1 at under-16 level, picked up a string of titles and went on to represent her country in the NZ junior Federation Cup team.
Alex Dawson was named Redwood Trust Junior Sportsman of the Year. The 18-year-old topped the national under-20 100m rankings in December and was included in a NZ under-20 relay development team. He is currently rated sixth overall in the senior men’s 100m rankings.
The Marlborough Convention Centre Sportsman of the Year was the largest category, containing 12 nominees.
It was won this year by international rower Tom Murray.
Tom, rowing alongside Michael Brake in the New Zealand men’s elite pair, enjoyed a superb season, capped off with a silver medal at the world championships in Austria, their podium placing qualifying the Kiwi boat for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The 25-year-old also won silver and bronze at the Rowing World Cup regattas that preceded the worlds.
The fifth category, the WK Advisors and Accountants Team of the Year award, was also hotly contested.
This year the trophy went to the Tasman Mako, who rampaged undefeated through the Mitre 10 Cup provincial rugby season, winning 12-from-12.
Their efforts included a semifinal win over defending champions Auckland and victory over Wellington in the premiership final, cementing their position as the nation’s top provincial team, a rags-to-riches story unparalleled in NZ rugby.
Their achievement showed New Zealand that two small provincial unions in the top of the south can put historical differences and geographical challenges aside to reach the pinnacle of their sport.
In what has quickly become a feature of the Marlborough Sports Awards, the Marlborough Medal was presented to a local person who has given long service to sport in the region. This year the Medal went to Simon Halliday, a stalwart of the Marlborough basketball scene over the past 39 years who has given sterling service as a player, referee, coach and administrator.
The awards evening had a distinctly netball feel this year, appropriate given the sport’s representatives became the only major NZ team to claim a world title.
The night’s entertainment was superbly co-ordinated by MC Bernice Mene, a former Silver Ferns legend, while current international defender Jane Watson, a member of the world champion side, was guest speaker.
The awards are a non-profit event, organised by representatives from Blenheim Round Table, Sport Tasman and the Marlborough Weekly.