COLLIS Birmingham is the new king of sport in Ballarat.
The long-distance track star was crowned the 2014 Ballarat Sportsmen’s Club Sportsperson of the Year on Wednesday night, breaking Jared Tallent’s four-year stranglehold on the title.
It is the first time Birmingam has won the award, following a stunning first half of the year on the track that was crucial in him becoming Australia’s elite long-distance runner.
However, injury plagued the tail end of his season, meaning Birmingham thought he had little chance of winning the award.
“I felt like I had a terrible finish to the year, I was disappointed to be injured and not perform all that well at the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“But often you forget about how well you’ve done previously, it wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind.
“There are still some really good results in there, the world indoors (where he finished 10th) seems so long ago now.”
He won the 5000m Australian title for the second time in April and also finished as the top ranked Australian in the 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m disciplines.
Birmingham also earned a Commonwealth Games spot and finished 12th in the 5000m.
At the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot he finished 10th – the third-best performance by an Australian athlete in the history of the championships and arguably his best result of the year.
Having recovered from a hamstring injury and stress fracture, Birmingham returned to training on Wednesday for the first time.
It only involved four one-kilometre runs around Lake Wendouree but for the 30-year-old, it was great to just be back out on the track.
“It’s just about being a bit more cautious this time. I rushed back into it, obviously, after my hamstring injury,” he said.
“It’s nothing compared to what I normally do but I tell you what, it felt great to be back out there.”
Birmingham will now set his sights on the World Athletics Championships in China in August.
Jared Tallent had claimed the crown in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and still remains one title behind marathon legend Steve Moneghetti and trap shooting Olympic gold medallist Russell Mark.
Birmingham was one of nine finalists for the award presented at Ballarat Golf Club on Wednesday night, alongside Tallent (athletics) Kathryn Mitchell (javelin), Kolbe Pool (eight-ball), Darren Weir (horse racing), Matt Short (cricket), Shannyn Johnstone-Ward (karate), Tim Slater (lawn bowls) and Duer Yoa (athletics).