Hannah Francis wins Helen Rollason Inspiration Award

  • Young eventer Hannah Francis has been recognised at this year’s Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards for her charity work and inspirational battle against bone cancer.

    The Somerset rider posthumously received the Helen Rollason Inspiration Award at this year’s ceremony at the News UK Headquarters, London Bridge on Thursday (December 8).

    The 18-year-old passed away in August after losing her battle against an aggressive form of the disease, which she was diagnosed with in May 2015.

    As well as writing a popular blog about her treatment, Hannah also set up the Wilberry Wonder Pony charity, which was granted official status in March this year.

    The charity supports bone cancer research, as well as granting horsey wishes to people with serious illnesses and their families.

    A gifted eventer, Hannah had been accepted onto national development pathway training in the months before her diagnosis.

    Hannah continued to ride despite her illness, taking part in Tattersalls CCI2* as a test rider for the dressage (pictured top) in the weeks before her death.

    Continued below…

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    Helen Rollason was a British sports journalist and television presenter who died of colon cancer at the age of 43 in August 1999. The first female presenter of Grandstand, she helped raise £5million to establish a new cancer wing at North Middlesex Hospital following her diagnosis.

    Other equestrians to receive the Sunday Times award named in Helen’s honour include trainer Jenny Pitman, who was the inaugural recipient in 1999 after also being diagnosed with cancer. Paralysed eventer Clare Lomas was handed the honour in 2012, after completing the London Marathon in a robotic suit.

    The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Award itself has recognised equestrians on two previous occasions since its inception in 1988.

    In 2003 it was won by Pippa Funnell following her triumph in the Rolex grand slam of eventing, while Zara Phillips (now Tindall) received the accolade in 2005, the year she was crowned individual European champion with Toytown.

    Olympic dressage individual gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin was one of this year’s top six shortlisted nominees.

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