Top of the bunch

Just nine months ahead of the London Olympics, Great Britain Hockey has named southsider Laura Bartlett as its 2011 Athlete of the Year.

The award is presented to the British athlete deemed to have been the top performing athlete of year and is selected by Great Britain Hockey on behalf of the British Olympic Association.

Bartlett joined the Reading first-division club in England to prepare for her second Olympics, after being called up for the Beijing Games at short notice.

The midfielder has been recognised for her outstanding performances for Scotland over the past 12 months and for demonstrating the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect.

23-year-old Bartlett - whose twin sister continues to appear at Titwood for Clydesdale Western - played a significant role as Scotland won the bronze medal at the FIH Champions Challenge I in June.

She then went on to win gold at the EuroHockey Nations Championships II in August, sealing promotion to the top tier for 2013.

Her performances have been all the more remarkable given her recovery from a serious knee injury sustained in a match against Germany in May 2010.

At the Champions Challenge I in Dublin this year, the former Glasgow Academy pupil kept her composure to score the deciding sudden-death penalty against Spain to win Scotland the bronze medal and was subsequently named player of the tournament.

Bartlett’s summer of success also saw her feature as Scotland lifted the Celtic Cup and won a three match series against South Africa in July.

Laura Bartlett said: “It is a great honour to receive such an award and I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way.

“It has been a great year to be part of such a successful Scotland squad. It’s been tough recovering from my injury and I would like to thank all of the physio support that I received in Scotland and England.

“I feel I’ve come back stronger and I’m looking forward to the challenges over the next year.

Danny Kerry, Great Britain Head Coach, said: “Laura’s continued growth stems from her attitude toward all the challenges that elite performance provides.

“Injury setbacks, training volume and feedback are all taken in a manner that means business.

“Laura continues to grow her game and will push hard her case toward a competitive GB selection for London 2012”.

Callum McLeod, Scottish Hockey Performance Manager gave Laura highest praise of all, saying he regarded her as “one of Scotland’s best ever players”.