Sprinters announced as athletes of the year by athletics writers at awards luncheon in London

Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes have been named as the female and male athletes of 2018 at the British Athletics Writers’ Association awards in London.

The two sprinters are first-time winners of the oldest and most prestigious honour in British athletics at the end of a year that saw them take sprint golds at the European Championships in Berlin.

The BAWA awards were first presented in 1963 and this year’s event took place at the Tower Hotel in London and was supported by London Marathon Events.

Asher-Smith, 22, finished ahead of 2017 winner Laura Muir and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in voting among the track and field media.

The Blackheath & Bromley athlete was a triple champion at the European Championships, in addition to winning the 200m and the 4x100m while setting British records in both individual events in the German capital. Additionally, she earned gold and bronze at the Commonwealth Games in April and was named European Athletics athlete of the year.

Hughes, 23, added 4x100m gold to his 100m title in Berlin and he also took relay gold at the Commonwealth Games. His 100m PB of 9.91 now ranks him second behind Linford Christie on the UK all-time list and it earned him the BAWA prize ahead of six-time winner Mo Farah, with Nick Miller and Reece Prescod sharing third place.

“First and foremost we’re athletes so we always feel most comfortable on the track,” said Asher-Smith after receiving her award.

“It’s lovely to keep being recognised for our exploits on the track but it’s definitely one of the unexpected perks of the job. You forget how your performance affects other people, for them to give you an award. It’s really nice but I’m definitely not used to it!”

Looking ahead to next year, she added: “The pressure of competition is making us work harder and train harder.

“Alongside my fantastic coach John, we’re working really hard to find new ways to turn my weaknesses into strengths and my strengths into stronger strengths, so I can put myself in the best stead over the next two years and for the rest of my career.”

Norris and Emerson take under-20 prizes

Jake Norris, who won hammer gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Tampere and broke the UK under-20 record in 2018, was named junior male athlete of the year, with his prize presented to his coach Paul Dickenson by AW editor Jason Henderson.

Heptathlete Niamh Emerson, who followed bronze at the Commonwealth Games with the world under-20 crown, took the junior female athlete of the year honour.

Sophie Hahn, who won T38 100m, 200m and relay golds at the WPA European Championships in Berlin and Kare Adenegan, who landed T34 100m gold and 800m silver at the same event at the age of 17, as well as earning victory in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon, were joint winners of the female para athlete of 2018 prize. Both also set world records at this year’s Anniversary Games.

Thomas Young, 18, secured the male para athlete of the year honour following two golds in Berlin – in the T38 100m and 200m.

Dickenson lands Pickering prize

The long-standing Ron Pickering Memorial Award for Services to Athletics was presented to one of the late commentator’s former BBC colleagues, Paul Dickenson. The two-time Olympian, 68, is coach to Norris and mentor to a large group of young throwers, doing a huge amount to nurture young talent in tandem with a long and distinguished broadcasting career.

The BAWA inspiration award, meanwhile, went to Anthony Whiteman – the former GB middle-distance international and world record-breaking masters athlete who finally retired from athletics this year.

In tandem with the BAWA awards, a number of annual prizes from the British Milers’ Club were also presented including their male and female athletes of the year for Jake Wightman and Laura Muir and young athletes of the year for Max Burgin and Keely Hodgkinson.

The Frank Horwill outstanding services award went to Hugh Barrow, plus there was a coach of the year honour for Geoff Wightman and Mike Down received the lifetime coaching achievement award.

» More news and photos from the BAWA awards in the November 29 issue of AW