26th July 2018, 10:32 | university
Five talented athletes from across England have been revealed as 2018 TASS Stars Awards winners in celebration of an exceptional year of performances both on and off the field.
More than 400 TASS-supported athletes were eligible to be put forward for an award and from the scores of nominations received, a shortlist of fourteen finalists came together at a presentation afternoon alongside the Müller Anniversary Games in London.
Table tennis player Maria Tsaptsinos was named as the winner of the Star of the Year category, the ultimate accolade in recognition of an outstanding achievement in sport and study.
In April, the 21-year-old won a historic women's team bronze medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, whilst also working towards a first class honours Geography degree.
But since she was unable to attend the presentation to receive the award, TASS and the University of Nottingham teamed up to surprise Tsaptsinos at her university graduation event earlier in the week.
UoN Scholarship & Recruitment Manager, Phil Wood, presented the trophy to the shocked student in front of family, friends and a crowd of fascinated onlookers.
"It was a big surprise to win the award and I’m very grateful," she revealed.
"Thank you to my TASS Delivery Site, University of Nottingham, who helped me through this difficult year academically and sporting-wise. Thanks to my parents and everyone who has supported me."
Meanwhile, freestyle skier Justin Taylor-Tipton - who has also been a recipient of TASS support at the University of Nottingham - scooped the title in the Most Inspirational category.
GB Olympic trap shooter Zara Dunford was the winner of the Most Determined award having thrived while managing the difficult transition from junior to senior competition this year.
The athlete deemed to be Most Committed was semi-professional Rugby League player, George Milton, who has shown an exception level of engagement with the support programme.
University of East London's Maya Bruney took the title in the Most Potential category following a sensational year which saw her become U20 European Athletics Champion in the 200m.
The winners were presented with their trophies by middle distance specialist Sarah McDonald, who competed in the one mile event at the Anniversary Games on Sunday.
McDonald has enjoyed a phenomenal year on the track, reaching the semi-final at her first World Athletics Championships last August and later making her Commonwealth debut at the 2018 Gold Coast Games.
And exactly one year on from attending the TASS Stars Awards as a nominee, the TASS alumna joined the celebrations to speak to the group of talented finalists.
"It was really exciting to be asked to present this year’s TASS Stars Awards having been shortlisted for an award myself just 12 months ago," she said.
"I was fortunate to receive TASS support during the third year of my medicine degree and I’ve had first-hand experience of the demands that student-athletes face.
"It was a real pleasure to meet all the finalists and to be able to join TASS in congratulating the athletes on their fantastic achievements this year."
TASS National Director, Guy Taylor said: "Following the success of last year's awards we were keen to once again shine a spotlight on the TASS athletes who are excelling in both their sport and study.
"At TASS we understand how difficult it can be to juggle the demands of training, competition and full time education, so we believe it’s important to recognise those who not only succeed, but thrive on the challenge.
"We hope the TASS Stars Awards will provide a platform to share the incredible achievements of these young people who prove without a doubt that sport and study can be a winning combination."