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Shropshire border mountain biker Rachel Atherton misses her day on red carpet

Oswestry | News | Published:

Mountain biker Rachel Atherton had the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Usain Bolt and Hugh Grant in Monaco, among celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, fashion and sport.

But Rachel, who hails from the Shropshire-Mid Wales border missed out on her chance to walk the red carpet because she was too busy training hard.

Rachel has topped off her perfect season winning the top prize in a ceremony known as the sporting Oscars.

The 29-year-old mountain-biker, fom Llanrhaeadr, is the 2017 Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year, the first person from her sport to pick up the title.

That puts her alongside the great and the good of world sport, with other winners including Bolt, swimmer Michael Phelps and US gymnast Simone Biles.

Rachel credits the surroundings and training facilities in the Shropshire borders for a large part of her success.

She grew up in the countryside where the lack of activities for children in the local area played a huge role in launching her career.

The family moved to Llanrhaeadr, near Oswestry, 15 years ago, and Rachel said the local facilities have been a great help to her and her brothers Dan and Gee.

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The ace, a former Oswestry Marches School pupil, has now chalked up 33 World Cup series wins in all – and her success at the Laureus Awards places her in a global sporting spotlight.

The awards were created in 2000 as part of Laureus Sport for Good, a movement that uses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage.

Nelson Mandela was Laureus's first patron and believed passionately in the cause.

Rachel Atherton

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There are seven categories of award, including world sportsman of the year, world sportswoman of the year, which saw a nomination for UK's Laura Kenny and action sportsperson of the year.

A total of six nominees per category are chosen by panels including leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters with specialist panels overseeing the action sports and sportsperson of the year with a disability categories.

The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy then vote by secret ballot to select the award winners in all seven categories.

The actions sports award goes to the sportsman or sportswoman who best demonstrates supreme athletic performance and achievement in action sports in the qualifying year.

Rachel was up against some tough competition in her category, from a Brazilian skateboarder Pedro Barros, Surfers John Florence and Tyler Wright, snowboarder Chloe Kim and freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru.

She said: "I'm overwhelmed to be even mentioned in such a list. And its great that four out of the six action sports nominees are women.

"Chloe and Kelly are still in their teens, it looks like action sports has a lot to look forward to."

But Rachel was unable to pick up her award at the event on Tuesday night in Monaco, as she was hard at work with Coach Nick Grantham at the team's training camp in California.

She said: "I was gutted not to be able to make the ceremony; we looked at every available flight, about 100 different sets of scheduling but we just couldn't make it work.

"I can't quite believe this is real and I am so delighted that my success this season and the sport of downhill mountain- biking as a whole has been recognised in the wider world of sport.

"I really thank the academy members for giving me this honour, it makes it even more special that the award is voted for by the real legends of the sport, all of whom I have admired and been inspired by; everyone of them knows exactly how many hours go into finally achieving your goal.

"What Laureus stands for and the work Laureus does to help young people around the world really means a lot to me, I fully believe that sport changes your life and gives you the tools to overcome anything.

Winners receive a Laureus statuette of the human form against an engraving of the continents designed by Cartier.

Bolt sent out a series of tweets with images of himself at the ceremony with his award.

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