Britain’s elite athletes have named para-rower Gregg Stevenson as their male 2023 Athletes’ Athlete of the Year.
Having been nominated by a teammate, Gregg then topped a vote of Britain’s current and former World Class Programme athletes to decide their Athlete of the Year. Para-cyclist Fran Brown won the women’s award.
Gregg only joined the GB Para-Rowing Team in 2023 but won the PR2 Mixed Double Sculls with Lauren Rowles at the 2023 European Rowing Championships in his first international regatta.
The pair then became world champions only a year after partnering, with Lauren tempting Gregg back to the sport having initially left it behind in 2018. When he returned he balanced training and competition with existing work commitments, studying for a master’s degree, and having two young children.
Gregg said of his spectacular year: “It was eight years of work before… but it felt break-neck speed to me at points! Before I knew it I was sat on the start line at the European Championships, my first official race in GB colours. I was like: ‘How am I here?!’ It was pretty daunting. Everyone was laughing at me because I hardly slept the night before and looked like a zombie! I was so nervous. But I think it’s testament to that eight years of hard training that built up to it.”
His nominator said: “His personality and attitude towards training are infectious and I think he has been a breath of fresh air.”
But Gregg’s remarkable story goes back much further than 2023. A former Royal Engineer, he lost both legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2009.
He learned to walk with prosthetics, but three years later was discharged from the military as he struggled to adjust to life. Gregg openly discusses his difficulty during that period, but managed to overcome it through a mixture of exercise and work. He became a qualified mental health practitioner and came close to making GB’s para-rowing team for the 2016 Paralympics.
He left the sport behind around 2018 but sustained his fitness and competitive drive, allowing him to get back on the water swiftly and successfully in summer 2022. Within months he was named on the World Class Programme, and by September had become European champion, world champion, and received a distinction for his master’s.
It was a year to be proud of for wider elite British sport too, with athletes excelling in and out of competition, breaking new records, overcoming personal adversity, and using their positions to better the sporting world. Nominations were made not just for competitive success, but also for those athletes who supported or inspired others in elite sport throughout the year.
We’d therefore like to congratulate Gregg and Fran on winning this award, but also their fellow nominees: Joe Clarke (canoeing), Emma Finucane (cycling), Jessica Gadirova (gymnastics), Chris Hunt Skelley (para-judo), Beth Potter (triathlon), Shah Rashid (wheelchair fencing), Lucy Renshall (judo), Matt Richards (swimming), Bradly Sinden (taekwondo) and Maisie Summers-Newton (para-swimming).