AUSTRALIAN under-18 400-metre champion Sam Baird has had his first taste of competing on the international stage.
Pulling on the green-and-gold for the IAAF World Youth Championships in the Ukraine capped off a stellar breakthrough year for Baird.
His efforts have earned him the Wunhym Trophy as Ballarat Sportsmen’s Club junior sportsperson of the year.
Baird said it was an honour to join a decorated list of past winners after such an amazing year.
His highlight? Making his international debut and doing so with a personal best time.
“Coming from competing domestically and in Australia, the experience was so different – it’s a whole new ball game with police escorts, athlete passes and great facilities,” Baird said.
“Being able to put on the Aussie tracksuit and just think, wow, I’m representing my country.
“It was an absolute honour.”
Baird started 2013 by winning the 400m novice sash off a 20m backmark in Maryborough on New Year’s Day.
He backed this up on the Victorian Athletic League circuit by winning the prestigious Bendigo Black Opal 400m sash off 17m.
Baird won his national gold medal with a world youth qualifying time and came close to breaking the national 4x400m relay record for his age.
And Baird just hoped to keep building.
Already this month, he has posted a world junior qualifying time to compete in Oregon in the United States.
Fellow emerging track star Nicholas Milton and Australian Open junior singles tennis player Zoe Hives were also junior sportsperson of the year nominees.
LONG-serving Ballarat Sports Foundation secretary Noel Pidgeon’s hard work to support the city’s developing athletes has been recognised with the Mackenzie Award.
Pidgeon is well-respected with major sporting bodies across Ballarat for his fairness, tolerance and patience with emerging athletes in his 15 years with the foundation.
The Mackenzie Award highlights those who make a behind-the-scences contribution to Ballarat sport. Pidgeon was humbled to accept the honour, saying he did so for the whole foundation team.
The foundation sponsors emerging athletes on their sporting journeys and Pidgeon said he liked to think it helped with their success.