When I started this column in January, the aim was to focus the spotlight on some of Catalonia's sporting talent. This is a small country blessed by a disproportionate number of champions, but the heroes of less popular sports, as well as younger athletes tend to be overlooked. Thus, every month, I featured a profile of a different sports person, hoping to shine a light on the men and women who work so hard and sacrifice so much for their chosen discipline.
I am not the only one and a much more effective way of achieving the same aim comes from the annual Festa de l'Esport Català. This year is the 18th edition of the awards and, on December 15, the chosen winners will receive their prizes and some well-earned acclaim. Organised by the Unió de Federacions Esportives de Catalunya and the daily sports paper, Sport, the awards recognise sports people in different categories, including male and female, for established athletes and newcomers. What follows is a summary of the winners, some of which have already appeared on these pages over the past 12 months.
On November 13, it was announced that the jury had reached its decision after an internet campaign in which sports fans voted for their favourite athletes. It is no surprise that the main categories – best Catalan sports man and woman – were awarded to the motorcyclists Marc Márquez and Laia Sanz. The first this year won his second consecutive MotoGP world title and remains only one of four riders to have won world championship titles in three different categories. Sanz, meanwhile, is the 13 times Women's Trial World Champion and 10 times Women's Trial European Champion in Outdoor Motorcycle Trials. This year, Sanz received plaudits for her performance in the gruelling Dakar rally, coming first in the women's category and an impressive 16th overall.
As for up-and-coming athletes, the jury recognised three young sports men and women who are making waves in Catalan sport: the sailing pair Jordi Xammar and Joan Herp and swimmer África Zamorano. The former became youth world champions in the 470 dinghy class and the latter picked up a gold medal in the 200 metre freestyle during the 2014 European swimming championships.
The jury gave honorouble mentions to the CN Atlètic Barceloneta men's waterpolo team and the CPA Olot female skating team. Also recognised were a host of sports clubs in Catalonia for bringing through such a talented group of individuals.
Sporting historyNeil Stokes
The Unió de Federacions Esportives de Catalunya (UFEC) is a non-profit organisation that aims to coordinate and promote Catalonia's sports federations. UFEC was originally founded in 1933 as the Unió Catalana de Federacions Esportives. After the Transition, the Generalitat reinstated the body in its current form. One of UFEC's main activities every year is organising the Festa de l'Esport Català, with the sports daily, Sport. The Festa is an awards ceremony that recognises athletes – individually and in teams – as well as clubs for their sporting success during the year.
The 17th edition of the event took place last year, and recognised MotoGP rider Marc Márquez (also this year's winner) in the best male athlete category, and swimmer Ona Carbonell in the female category. The awards for up-and-coming sports man and woman went to basketball player Guillem Vives and canoeist Núria Fontané.