Damian writes a regular column in the Petersfield Post, and below is the latest one published today:
"The annual East Hampshire Sports Awards take place in a few weeks, celebrating the talent and achievements of local individuals and teams during the past year, across an ever-widening range of sports that we now have access to.
It’s not just the number of sports that has grown, it’s also their competitiveness. Sport has a uniquely global reach and involvement that transcends barriers. Despite geographical, cultural, linguistic and political differences, the skills and aptitudes are pretty much universal, as is the honour felt to compete on behalf of your country.
And there are some major events to look forward to in 2018, with July’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia probably amongst the most eagerly anticipated. The endurance of the home fans as they follow the expected high and lows of the England team is almost worthy of a sport in its own right.
Before that, the Winter Olympics in South Korea during February, and Paralympics in March, will see the GB team aiming for a record medal haul, as they step out to compete in curling, skating, skeleton and snowboarding to name but a few of their chilly pursuits.
There will be more podium opportunities on offer for us at the Commonwealth Games in April, this time on the Gold Coast in Australia. The recent announcement that the 2022 games will be hosted by Birmingham is exciting for the city and local athletes alike; to perform in front of a home crowd must be one of the greatest feelings for any competitor.
And that honour will come to the GB ladies hockey team in July and August as the UK hosts the Women’s hockey World Cup in London. With every chance of repeating their gold medal winning performance of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the team will be led out by Alex Danson, who started her career locally at the Alton Hockey Club.
Other international sporting events happening on UK soil this year include the Gymnastics World Cup in Birmingham during March – another sport that Great Britain continues to shine in – and the Boccia World Championships taking place in Liverpool in August. Boccia is a target ball sport designed for athletes with impairments affecting all four limbs, a sport that students from the local Treloar’s School have excelled in.
And there are plenty more – the PDC World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace in London, the table tennis Team World Cup also in London, the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, cycling’s Tour de Yorkshire, and the World Thriathlon Series in Leeds.
Each of these bring together the very best competitors from across the world, and for a small island nation we definitely manage to punch above our weight.
And it all starts with children and young people getting their first taste of competitive sport at local sports grounds, clubs and schools right across the country.
And that is what the East Hampshire Sports Awards event is all about. Recognising standout performances, great teamwork, and the extraordinary commitment of coaches, officials and volunteers, who turn up week in and week out to help make it all happen.
It may be only a few individuals who reach the pinnacle of competing at a world cup, commonwealth games, Olympic or Paralympic event, but it’s a huge team effort that supports and enables them to realise their full potential.
So, as we head back to our normal routines after Christmas and consider the new year ahead, let’s pay tribute to our sporting heroes, whether in East Hampshire or beyond."
Written by Damian Hinds MP, and published in the Petersfield Post on 3rd January 2018