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Dwyer, Freixa win top awards

December 10, 2004 11:34 IST

Disappointment came India's hand as Australia's Jamie Dwyer and Spain's Santiago Freixa bagged the International Hockey Federation's 'Player of the Year' and 'Young Player of the Year' awards respectively for the year 2004 at Lahore on Friday.

Dwyer pipped eight other contenders including Indian captain Dilip Tirkey, who was nominated in the category for second time in a row, and forward Gagan Ajit Singh, for the award which was announced by FIH president Els Van Vreda Vriesman.

Although the Indian nomination for the young player award -- Adrian D'Souza -- had a fabulous year under the bar, he was relegated to the background as Spanish striker Freixa hogged the limelight.

Dwyer, also the winner of the FIH young player award in 2002, was absent at the presentation ceremony as his side did not participate in the Champions Trophy for security reasons and former Australian coach Richard Charlesworth received the award on his behalf.

"I am happy to receive the award. Thank you all very much. Wish we were there. But unfortunately we are not," Dwyer said over phone from Australia.

It was also a big disappointment for world's leading goal scorer Sohail Abbas of Pakistan who missed the award for the fourth time having been nominated for the honour thrice earlier.

For the first time, the winners were selected by the members of the teams participating in the Champions Trophy, guided by a panel of judges who nominated a shortlist of players taking into account performances in the Olympic qualifiers, the Olympics and the Champions Trophy.

All the 108 players of the six teams cast their votes, but only 85 of the votes were found to be valid.

The 25-year-old Dwyer, according to FIH, was a runaway winner, getting over 47 per cent of the total number of votes.

Freixa, who had a sensational year, said he was pitted in a tough league and expecting a close fight.

"I am happy to win the award. It's a really big honour. I was confident but knew it would be tough. Floris Evers, Mark Knowles and Edi Tubau were simply fantastic this year and I consider myself luck to pip these talented players," Freixa said.

The 21-year-old, a veteran of 82 games, hoped the award would spur him scale new heights at the highest level.

"Winning such big honour is a big boost to the confidence. It's going to help me do better and better," said the striker who is also a penalty corner specialist for the side.

FIH president Vriesman said both Dwyer and Freixa were worthy winners.

"Its obvious that our winners are wonderful ambassadors for their respective nations and also for our sport," she said.

"I congratulate all those who were nominated. That in itself is a tribute to their abilities and their value to our sport."

Last year, Tuen de Nooijer of Holland and Australia's Grant Schubert had bagged the player of the year and young player of the year awards respectively.

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