The high-performance community was celebrated this evening as UK Sport hosted its annual PLx awards ceremony.
Expanded to seven categories with the inclusion of a Spirit of High-Performance Award, British Canoeing coach Craig Morris, Paralympic judoka Christopher Skelley, former British Shooting Chair John Harris, British Sailing’s kiteboard relay team as well as teams at British Triathlon and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) were all honoured.
Launched for the first time in 2019, the PLx awards recognise those individuals, teams and sports who have made a significant contribution to the high-performance community, are achieving great things and having a special and positive impact across coaching, support services, innovation, collaborating and team working, and social impact.
This evening (November 17) the PLx awards winners were announced as part of a special virtual ceremony hosted by UK Sport Chair Dame Katherine Grainger and accomplished broadcaster Hazel Irvine. The awards and winners are:
Biggest turnaround or breakthrough in high-performance sport
- British kiteboard relay team & #Kite4Gold programme – British Sailing
The introduction of kite foiling for the Paris 2024 Olympics, a mixed relay discipline, created a new challenge and opened an opportunity for athletes seeking success at the Games. What started as a talent initiative in September 2018 has led to the British Sailing Team becoming frontrunners in the new Olympic discipline, winning gold and bronze at this year’s European Championships.
Connor Bainbridge, who won gold at this year’s European Championships with Ellie Aldridge, said: “We don’t really know what it [Paris 2024] is going to look like completely, so each competition that we go to and each event that we turn up at, we are learning more and more about what the Olympic discipline is going to be like. It is really, really exciting and we are all looking forward to what the future will bring and what Paris 2024 will bring.”
Coach who has made a special impact on high-performance in a sport, sponsored by the WCP Coach Developer Group
- Craig Morris – British Canoeing
Receiving three separate nominations for this award, Craig Morris coaches three of the four canoe slalom athletes selected by Team GB for the Tokyo Olympic Games – Mallory Franklin, Kimberley Woods and Adam Burgess. Morris has played a pivotal role in Woods’ rise to Olympic selection, staging an intervention to support her through critical life experiences and instigating a course of action which enabled her to connect and thrive on and off the water.
Morris said: “I’m privileged enough to work with three amazing people, let alone athletes, with a great team around us. I see myself as embedded in a team that are centered around understanding people before performers. Kimberley and I have grown together, and I just try and be a good human being. I love people, I love learning – and the combination of the two – and the ability to do that in the format of coaching sport full-time is a massive privilege for me.”
Support staff / practitioner from any specialism who has made a special impact on high-performance
- Laura Needham, Ben Stephenson, Lucy Wainwright – British Triathlon
Laura Needham, Ben Stephenson and Lucy Wainwright have been working on a sports heat and humidity strategy since 2016 as part of British Triathlon’s plans to prepare for the conditions at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. This work proved vital as the British team claimed nine medals at the Tokyo Test Event in August 2019.
Wainwright said: “We have tried to immerse ourselves in what athletes will face and how it will feel and then tried to build strategies where we can understand how each individual will cope with that environment. We have set up processes that support each of our individual athletes to be on the start line with the confidence that they can deal with whatever the conditions are and that they can still perform to their best on the day.”
Innovation Award – Innovation which has made a significant improvement in high-performance sport
- The EIS Performance Innovation, Physiology & Athlete Health Team
The team at the English Institute of Sport (EIS), in collaboration with Mint Diagnostics, developed a new, first of a kind technology – Hormonix – that provides clear, rapid and accurate information on hormone levels through a saliva sample. Regular and easy to access data on hormones has enormous potential to unlock a wide variety of opportunities to progress female health, performance and wellbeing.
Dr Richard Burden, Physiology Technical Lead at the EIS, said: “This whole project started four years ago with a conversation with Mint Diagnostics with them asking whether it would be useful for us to collect hormone data without the use of a lab, without the use of painful needles – and the answer was a million times yes. We slowly got the inkling that this could be a really, really big thing.”
Collaboration & Team Working – Best practice from a sport demonstrating impact in improving elite sport performance
- The EIS Psycho-Social Working Group
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Psychology, Performance Lifestyle and Mental Health teams at the English Institute of Sport formed a collaborative working group with the aim of proactively supporting the mental health of the high-performance community and optimising the transition back into training. Through close collaboration, a comprehensive, agile and responsive programme of support and guidance was delivered to provide the best support to the people in the high-performance community.
Kate Hays, Head of Psychology at the EIS, said: “We are in a really privileged position to be able to represent three exceptional teams. The practitioners within those teams have been working so hard and so tirelessly – day-in, day-out – over this period of time to ensure that the work that is created has a real impact on the day-to-day.”
Social Impact Award – Sport, staff or athlete that has positively impacted on their community
- Christopher Skelley – British Judo
During the Covid-19 pandemic VI judo athlete Chris Skelley, among many other projects, volunteered for Phoenix Enterprises, a non-profit organisation in Swindon that supports disabled and vulnerable people in the community. Alongside maintaining his full-time training, he delivered food and essential items to those isolating or unable to reach shops and supplies themselves.
Skelley said: “Phoenix Enterprises help people succeed and make sure they have a safe space to go and enjoy themselves. I am very honoured to be an ambassador for them. I just want to help people, that’s who I am. It is in my nature and always has been. If I can help someone have a good day by chatting to them or just making them a cup of tea, I have succeeded and that will make my day.”
Spirit of High-Performance Award
- John Harris – British Shooting
John Harris served as Chair of British Shooting from 2011 to 2020 during which the sport won six medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He also helped integrate the Olympic and Paralympic performance programmes under one Performance Director and establish the British Shooting Academy Programme and Talent Pathway model.
Harris said: “I feel enormously flattered, incredibly surprised and delighted. This whole experience has been a team effort. Nobody can do the things that we did at British Shooting without everybody putting their shoulder to the wheel and helping each other. It has been a massive team effort and I can’t take all of the credit for this.”
Deputy Director of People Development at UK Sport, Debbie Jenssen, said: “This year has been a year like no other with tremendous challenges and it is so important that we recognise and reward those individuals and teams who have made, and are continuing to make, a difference across our high-performance community. We received a huge number of nominations for this year’s PLx awards and my congratulations goes out to all the winners and the sports.
“Each award winner demonstrates how hard our leaders, coaches, support staff and practitioners work to support our elite athletes. We are proud to still be able to host the awards virtually this year and take the time to highlight the very best of our high-performance community. More people than ever have engaged with PLx this year and long may that continue.”
PLx, which in 2020 is taking place virtually for the first time, is this year a week-long learning and development event offering the opportunity for the high-performance community to come together to share insights, knowledge and hear from experts from inside and outside the sports sector through a series of engaging sessions and keynote speeches.