THE year 2006 was full of some fantastic sport across the region, with some exceptional performances on the local, national and international stage. Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club was at the heart of much of the region s success with star performer Lo
THE year 2006 was full of some fantastic sport across the region, with some exceptional performances on the local, national and international stage.
Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club was at the heart of much of the region's success with star performer Louis Smith bringing home Commonwealth gold from Melbourne, Australia in March.
Smith, still only 17, a pommel horse specialist from Eye, near Peterborough, spends six days a week training at the gym facility in Clayton's Way, Huntingdon and also retained his Junior European gold medal on the apparatus.
In December, Smith capped off his year with a call-up to the World Cup finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he competed as one of the top eight pommel athletes in the world, finishing fifth.
Other club members had exceptional years with the likes of Commonwealth bronze medallist Luke Folwell, Daniel Keatings and Emma White all starring.
Plans were also revealed for a new, £3.5million gymnasium at the Huntingdon site, which will enable elite and community gymnasts to operate independently from each other.
In football, only Eynesbury Rovers and St Ives Town of the region's premier sides ended the year with the same manager they started with.
A Steve Kuhne-inspired St Neots Town had a successful first half of the year, finishing an impressive fourth in the United Counties League Premier Division but this season has seem them struggling near the foot of the table.
Godmanchester Rovers turned to familiar faces as Karly Hurst and Eric Cheesewright replaced Ian Jackson at Bearscroft Lane, intent on bringing in more local players.
Huntingdon Town's groundsman Rob Bradshaw was highly-commended by the Football Association for his work on their Jubilee Park pitch. In 2006 the pitch saw the likes of Cambridge United and an Italian Serie C select XI grace its surface as Bradshaw retained his excellent reputation.
In cricket, the region's premier side Godmanchester Town endured a tough season, finishing second-to-bottom in the East Anglian Premier Division. Elliot Baldwin was named the club's player of the year and bigger and better things are anticipated for 2007.
Ramsey Cricket Club came out top of the Tucker Gardner Cambs & Hunts Premier Division, while Kimbolton & Catworth avoided the drop.
Waresley came second in Division Two of the same league to earn promotion to the Premier Division.
In the Hunts Cricket Board's annual presentation dinner, Matt Durrant of Godmanchester was named County player of the year while Sam Matcham (Sawtry Community College) and Chris Budd (Eaton Socon) won most promising player awards.
There was also a lot of high-quality junior cricket played in the region as Huntingdonshire clubs' youth programmes shone through.
England Ladies captain Charlotte Edwards, from Pidley, was busy across the region throughout 2006. She took time out to open the brand new nets facility at Warboys Cricket Club and played in two charity matches, raising cash for Mencap and Macmillan nurses.
After officially declaring the nets at one of her local clubs open, Edwards said: "Warboys has a place in my heart and I'm looking forward to practising here myself.
"Cricket is a difficult game to practise but these nets should help to attract kids to the club, which can only be a good thing for the game and for the kids."
In rugby union, Huntingdon Stags finished eighth in the Midlands 3 East (South) league but have started the 2006/07 season badly.
St Ives Bulls have made a mediocre start to their Midlands 5 East (South) league campaign, though St Neots end 2006 top of the Midlands 6 East (South) division with five wins from six games, including a 109-0 trouncing of Stamford College.
Meanwhile, in November, Hinchingbrooke School pupil Lizell Heather, 15, was selected to attend six national Rugby Football Union development groups after being identified as a star in the making.
The St Ives Roosters rugby league side narrowly lost out in a divisionalplay-off 34-22 to Bedford Tigers to end a relatively successful season for the club. Michael Sykes was named the club's player of the year.
Three young tennis stars got the chance to play at Wimbledon in the summer.
Sarah Bragg, 12, from Huntingdon, Victoria Nicholas, 12, of St Neots and Kristian Wingate, 14, from Spaldwick were among 128 starlets competing in the Road to Wimbledon National 14 and under Challenge.
The trio beat off competition from more than 15,000 players in qualifying tournaments that begun in April this year to take their places at Wimbledon.
Amateur boxers from the region were kept waiting to begin their 2006/07 season after computer problems at the Amateur Boxing Association meant cards could not be processed efficiently.
In February a major boxing evening at the Burgess Hall in St Ives saw nearly £5,000 raised for Huntingdonshire charities with the Rotary Club of Huntingdon presenting the Cambs Police Amateur Boxing Club (CAMPOL) with a cheque for £1,000.
CAMPOL head coach Mick Taylor said: "It was a fantastic evening which even surpassed last year's very successful event. There was something there for everyone and the quality of boxing was very good."
It was a good year for Huntingdon Racecourse manager Amy Starkey, who oversaw an excellent year for the course and was invited to a gala reception at Buckingham Palace in December. Starkey, at 25, Britain's youngest racecourse manager, said: "When the letter arrived I thought someone was pulling my leg."
Somersham water-skier Kim Lumley triumphed in one of the sport's most prestigious competitions in Los Angeles, USA.
Lumley, then 24, won the Catalina Island race for the fourth time in July, beating off more than 100 competitors to become the first European ever to do so.
In motor sport, Huntingdon-based Lola Cars successfully completed another gruelling Le Mans 24 Hour race in June.
The result included an LMP2 class victory for the RML Lola-MG and a unique first, second and fourth in the prototype class and all, bar one, of the five Lola sports cars crossed the finish line.
Sam Smith, of Lola Cars, said: "It was a fine achievement by all of our teams to put on such a fantastic show. It is also a great endorsement of the skill of our engineers in designing and building such quick and strong and cars."
Hinchingbrooke school pupil Jonathan Railton demonstrated his potential with some impressive motorbike racing performances in the Formula ACU Star Championship, including a victory in the opening round at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
Railton will fly to Spain next year to prepare for his first season in the Grand Prix 125 class.
Martial artists from across the region returned with an impressive medal haul from the World Championships in California.
A large proportion of the 60-plus Great Britain Tang Soo-Do squad was made up of local fighters with Noreen Khan, from Huntingdon, retaining the Female World Grand Champion title and claiming a number of gold medals.
Stephanie Pratt, also from the Huntingdon Club, claimed two golds while Hunts Ladies fighter Safiya Khan earned a gold and silver.
Stephen Brabury from the St Ives Club took a gold and a bronze while there were bronzes for Huntingdon fighters Frankie Stead, Jacquelyne Pratt, Katie Stead and eight-year-old Bryn Wiseman. Catherine Carter of the Grafham club won a silver.
Other local successes included Mike Allen, Lydia, Gaynor and Robert Russell, Lianna Fitzpatrick and Matthew Wallace.
And finally, St Neots ends 2006 as home to the new ladies' mountain bike bog snorkelling world champion.
Nel Soetekouw, of Eaton Ford, clinched the crown at the ninth annual staging of the event in Llanwrtyd, Wales, in July.
Nel, 42, said: "We regularly go mountain biking in Wales and I thought this particular weekend wasn't going to be any different. Then it turned out my husband Marc had entered us for the bog cycling event.
"It was great fun and it is great to hold a world title.