A DEDICATED chief coach still making a splash aged 80 has been crowned The Northern Echo’s Local Hero 2017 after spending decades nurturing sport at the grassroots.

John Moore was named the overall winner at the 18th annual Local Heroes Awards to celebrate the region’s sports stars and all those working behind the scenes who are seldom in the spotlight.

The sold-out ceremony honoured inspirational North-East athletes, coaches, teams and clubs in front of hundreds of guests at the Grand Marquee at Wynyard Hall, in County Durham, last night.

Mr Moore continues to formally coach at the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre seven days a week despite a prostate and bladder cancer diagnosis and two knee replacements.

His 36-hour course of chemotherapy was made that tiny bit easier after realising he had trained half the medical staff, including the sister in charge of the chemo ward.

He earned the evening’s top accolade, as well as the Sir Bobby Robson Leading Light honour for his dedication to the Sedgefield 75 Swimming Club since 1982, coaching national and international champions.

Mr Moore was presented with the Local Hero Award by renowned retired track and field athlete, Steve Cram CBE, who was a VIP guest alongside former Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Allison Curbishley and the world’s number one ranked trampolinist, Kat Driscoll.

Peter Barron, former editor of The Northern Echo and Local Heroes Awards founder, compered the star-studded evening and told guests that Mr Moore was the epitome of a hero.

He said: “Our Local Hero for 2017 is someone who epitomises what these awards are all about and is someone who might not otherwise have been placed in the spotlight.

“He has given a lifetime of dedication to nurturing sport at the grass roots and has produced champions and didn’t let serious health problems get in the way.

“He’s still out there, coaching, guiding, showing the way, and making a splash at the age of 80.”

Tributes were paid to inspirational Matt Hadden, 28, as well as the sprinter and Paralympic hopeful, Kieran Maxwell, from Heighington, near Darlington, who died on June 23, aged 18.

Six-year-old Bradley Lowery was also honoured by guests after his life with terminal childhood cancer captured the hearts of millions with the support of his friend and ex-Sunderland striker, Jermaine Defoe.

The very first honour of the night went to another incredible six-year-old – Darlington-born Temperance Pattinson who was surprised with an award for her achievements and fundraising for charity.

Her meeting with a blinded veteran filmed earlier this year went viral, earning more than 100 million views online before she went on to complete a 100 metre swim, a triathlon and the Darlington 5K for Help for Heroes.

Liam Readle, 17, from Norton, near Stockton, collected the Remarkable Achievement Award in the junior category for overcoming the struggle of being the only one of triplets to be born with a disability.

His cerebral palsy led him to self-harm aged 14, but a school visit from Paralympian Lee Fawcett led Liam to take up wheelchair basketball with the Tees Valley Titans club and he has already made it to the England squad.

The senior Remarkable Achievement Award went to Afghanistan veteran James Rose, 30, from Middlesbrough, who has not let a double amputation stop him from becoming para-rowing, cycling and training with the GB para-volleyball team.

World Trampolining Championship bronze medallist, Ms Driscoll, presented fellow trampolinist, ten-year-old Caitlyn Turnbull with the Most Promising New Talent Award for her success at the Apollo Trampoline Club, in Washington.

Mica McNeill, 24, from Consett, scooped the Sporting Excellence Award in the senior category for her dedication to follow her Winter Olympic dreams despite the bobsleigh authorities pulling the plug on GB funding.

Chairman of Crook Town Football Club, Vince Kirkup, was named the Unsung Hero for his work both on and off the pitch in grassroots football for more than 50 years.

South Shields FC picked up the Senior Club of the Year Award as arguably the most successful North-East football club, regularly attracting more than 1,000 supporters to each game.

Junior Club of the Year went to Norton Cricket Club Under-11s, who remain unbeaten in every game they’ve played this season, winning four trophies along the way.

The Sporting Excellence Award for juniors went to 18-year-old Markhim Lonsdale, from Crook, who is on the verge of breaking into the country’s senior athletics squad.

Cricketer Luke Robinson, 13, collected the Outstanding Performance Award with the Philadelphia Cricket Club, based near Houghton-le-Spring, when he took six wickets in the space of a single over, cleanly bowling all six.

  • A souvenir supplement from the evening will be published in Saturday’s Northern Echo.