Paralympic gold-medallist Debbie Criddle has been short-listed for the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Award 2004.
Somerset-based Criddle, who lost an arm in a motorcycle accident in 1985, won gold medals at every competition in which she took part in Athens.
She performed a great test with Figaro IX to take the gold in the grade III individual dressage. This was great result in itself for the 38-year-old, who had seen the bronze medal snatched away from her at the last minute in the Sydney Olympics.
But that was just a start and Criddle went on to produce an excellent performance on the grade III freestyle dressage, where she scored a massive 81.722% to finish four points ahead of runner-up Bettina Eistel from Germany.
Criddle then managed the amazing feat of improving on her individual score in the team competition, where — together with Lee Pearson, Nicola Tustain and Anne Dunham — she won the gold medal with a 10% margin over their nearest rivals. “I felt terrible in the morning, I was so nervous I was shaking,” she said at the time.
The gold medal was prize enough to calm her nerves, but her nomination to the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Award is the icing on the cake. Criddle is travelling at the moment, but her husband, Bruce, reports she was very happy at the news. “She is actually made over with it. She was really really pleased,” he says.
“She couldn’t believe it when I brought the paper and showed her. Let’s hope she does win, she has worked very hard. I don’t think people realise the actual amount of work that goes into all this.”
British Dressage is supporting Criddle’s nomination with an email campaign urging people to vote for her. “We are delighted at her nomination,” says Jo Bagnall of BD. “It’s fantastic. It’s what Debbie deserves. She has achieved all she could possibly achieve this year.”
Criddle will contend the award with four other Paralympic sportswomen — swimmer Nyree Lewis, cyclist Aileen McGlynn, shooter Isabel Newstead and wheelchair runner Tanni Grey-Thompson.
“We’re delighted for all our athletes who have been nominated for the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Award,” says Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, Phil Lane. “This is further recognition of their achievements and efforts both in the run-up to Athens and at the Paralympic Games themselves.”
Badminton player Gail Emms, runner Kelly Holmes, rugby player Donna Kennedy, sailor Shirley Robertson and golfer Karen Stupples are also on the shortlist for the award, which will be presented at a lunch at London’s Sheraton Park Hotel on 24 November.
The public can vote for the winner by text or phone until midnight on Wednesday, November 17. Each text will cost 25p and the service is available on all networks except 3 mobile. Telephone votes will cost a maximum of 25p from BT lines, but charges may be different with other service providers.
To vote for Debbie Criddle, call 0901 890 3400 or text DEBORAH to 84070.