Four Olympians have their eyes on Derbyshire's top sport prize
Derbyshire's brightest sporting stars, coaches, and volunteers will gather for the Derbyshire Sports Awards at The Roundhouse in Derby tomorrow.
The evening will see the announcement of this year's winner of the coveted University of Derby Sportsperson of the Year award. Here we look at the contenders.
Liam Pitchford is aiming to keep hold of his crown.
The reigning University of Derby Sportsperson of the Year has had another standout year and competed at his first Olympic Games.
The 19-year-old table tennis player from Chesterfield was selected as part of the three-strong men's team which competed in London, where they had a tough first round draw against Portugal.
Pitchford competed in a singles match against Joao Monteiro, losing 3-1, and also teamed up with Andrew Baggaley for a doubles match against Tiago Apolonia and Joao Monteiro, which also ended in defeat.
But despite being unable to upset the odds again – as he did at the 2011 European Championships where he beat five players ranked in the top 100 in the world, including the world number nine – Pitchford was pleased with his performance and delighted to have been selected.
"The highlight for me this year was competing at the Olympic Games, it was such an amazing experience and something I will never forget," said Pitchford.
"The atmosphere was amazing and having the home support made it more special.
"It was totally different to a lot of the usual table tennis competitions. The crowd was the biggest difference, normally we are lucky to get 300 spectators but at the Games there were around 6,000."
Pitchford has been a regular feature in the England team, competing in the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals, European Championships, European and World Olympic Qualifiers and the World Team Championships. He was also selected as an ITTF Wildcard for the Men's World Cup, involving 18 of the best players.
He also plays professionally in the Bundesliga, the top professional league in Europe, for German club TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen.
"I enjoy table tennis because the game is so fast and you always have to be ready for all the different spins and shots involved," Pitchford added. "It's a privilege to be nominated again for this award."
CYCLIST Annie Last became the first British woman to qualify for the Olympic mountain biking event since the Sydney Games in 2000.
The 22-year-old from Great Longstone finished eighth at the London Games after initially leading the race and staying with the front-runners for four of the six laps.
London 2012 was the culmination of two years' hard work to qualify for the Games, which involved a packed schedule of races around the world to gain enough qualification points.
And what made it tougher was the fact that Last chose to race in the Elite Women's category rather than her own U23 category.
"I was really pleased with eighth place at the Olympics," said Last.
"Females in mountain bike cross-country generally tend to develop and reach their peak later in life and I was 21 when I competed, so to even get to an Olympics at that age was a really big achievement for me. It was a hard two years' qualification process but worth it.
"The best thing about the Games was the home crowd. To compete at a home Games and have a crowd of 20,000 people all cheering for you was such an amazing experience.
"I did everything I could to be in the best place for London 2012 but I'm still a developing rider and I've got a long way to go. The next Olympics in Rio is a massive goal for me and, hopefully, in four years I can step up and be on the podium."
Last also won a silver medal at the U23 MTB World Championships in 2011 and gained her first podium place at an Elite World Cup race, in Val d'Isere a few weeks before the Olympics, when she finished third.
"It was a massive goal for me this year to step up from getting top 10's to getting on to the podium," Last added.
"I'm still in the U23 category but I've been racing up in the Elite category at World Cups and national races because you get more points as an elite rider rather than an U23 rider.
"To be nominated for the Derbyshire Sportsperson of the Year award is great. It's so nice to be recognised for your hard work and achievements and it's great to see that everyone at home sees what you do and you're not just by yourself at the top of a mountain. I'm really honoured."
JENNIFER Pinches overcame a series of minor injuries at the start of the year to enjoy a memorable 2012.
The 18-year-old gymnast suffered a drop in fitness because of injury problems early in the year.
However, she recovered to be selected for the European Championships team in May.
Although Pinches, from Whaley Bridge, didn't perform as well as she had hoped and the team just missed out on a medal – taking fourth place – this spurred her on for the Olympic trials.
Gradual improvement meant she was back on form for the final trial, the British Championships on July 4.
"The British Championships went really well and I managed to finish second overall, a place higher than in 2011, despite my shaky start to the year!" said Pinches.
"I also became British Beam Champion and I won the Arun Trophy for the highest-scoring gymnast, again on the beam."
She was selected for the British women's artistic gymnastics Olympic team and competed in London.
Pinches was 21st in the individual competition on qualification day and then helped the team produce a British record-breaking performance at the Olympics, finishing sixth. She also managed two personal best scores on the floor and vault on the finals day, rounding off a brilliant Olympics.
"The crowd were incredible and I felt so loved to hear all the support and read all the well wishes from the public," said Pinches.
"It was fantastic to get all that recognition after the hours of training, six days a week."
Pinches has been doing gymnastics since she was six and, having reached the pinnacle of her sport at a home Olympics, she has chosen to retire from the sport.
She recently returned from Ecuador, where she spent two months helping small communities to develop, helping with building work and teaching English.
She has also returned to sixth form to complete her A-levels, having taken a break to focus on the Olympics, and hopes to study psychology at university next year.
"I've achieved my dream of competing at the Olympic Games so I'm moving on to my other ambitions," she added.
"I am proud to say I am from Derbyshire and winning the Derbyshire Sportsperson of the Year award would be an honour."
BELPER swimmer Ross Davenport is hoping to be crowned Derbyshire Sportsperson of the Year for a second time.
Davenport, who recently announced his retirement from international swimming, won the title in 2006 after his triple medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
This year, he competed in his third and final Olympic Games, swimming as part of the British team which finished sixth in the 4x200m freestyle relay final, with Davenport swimming the anchor leg against Olympic legend Michael Phelps.
"Competing against the greatest Olympian ever, Michael Phelps, is something that I will never forget," said Davenport.
"London doesn't even compare to the previous Olympic Games. The atmosphere, the support and the success just made it a once in a lifetime competition.
"Qualifying and competing in any Olympic Games is remarkable but to do it at a home Games is incredible.
"The great summer of sport in Great Britain was a dream come true for all involved. To be a part of that was truly amazing."
Davenport also achieved individual success in the 2012 British Championships, finishing fourth in the 200m freestyle and fifth in the 100m freestyle.
Now, at 28, he has decided to go out on a high and retire from international swimming – 22 years after he first took to the water.
"Just to be nominated for this award has capped what is already a brilliant year," he added. "If I was lucky enough to win, it would mean the world to me. It would be the last swimming accolade I would win after recently retiring."