Elena Baltacha Foundation Awards 2017

Posted 08 Feb 2018

After 5 months of planning for The Elena Baltacha Foundation Awards the 10th December arrived, the whole team were ready for a well-rehearsed event of awards and celebration, unfortunately Mother Nature had very different ideas! The snow began to fall very early, and as the morning progressed, Nino was involved in some very worrying telephone calls with parents, coaches, VIP’s and dignitaries.


The attendance casualties began to roll in, Nigel Sears, after 4 hours of trying to drive in from Brighton had to turn back after reaching Essex, so near, yet so far, and it did not end there unfortunately. James Burridge from the BBC who was hosting the evening could not make it in from Wimbledon, and our Ambassador and Federation Cup Captain Anne Keothavong, was also stuck in London, with Naomi Broady, British tennis player from up north, not even getting off the runway at the airport. At this point, the proceedings really did start to get tricky with parents of players calling to say that they were very worried about driving in, it was at this point, Nino was 15 minutes away from cancelling the whole event. A gut feel told him to carry on with the show, and whatever would happened, would happen!


Nino could not bring himself to cancel as the awards this year had been turned into a marque event and was all about celebrating the players and honouring Bally, her vision and legacy. The snow stopped, but the travelling conditions were still very dangerous, it was a very worrying time for the foundation organisation team. The time had come for the doors to Trinity Park to be opened, what a spectacular themed décor Trinity Park had arranged, it was fire and ice theme, with streamers and fairy lights covering the ceiling and coloured lights throughout the room, what a shame if the attendance was hit by the snow.


The first guests started to arrive, just a few, and it was not looking good at all, as the numbers were very thin, but out of nowhere, the numbers started to grow, so much to a point where they were queuing up to get through the doors. All the foundation team, were amazed, everyone had made a great effort, they were not going to let a big snow storm destroy the biggest night of the year.


The guests walked onto the red carpet and were met by the “Meet and Greet” foundation team, who walked them to the Yonex back drop where everyone had their photo’s taken by a professional photographer. The guests then mingled, and it was time for everyone to take their seats for the evening. All the tables were themed, white for ice, and red for fire, the tables looked absolutely stunning, and really did set the scene for a marque event.

The awards this year were being held in association with our world governing body the WTA, which meant some very special surprises later on in the evening. Once everyone had settled down, the awards commenced, starting with everyone receiving their achievement medal, this was a tradition that was started by Elena at the very first awards 6 years ago. This was followed by the 11 main awards which included the Serena and Venus Williams Vase, specially donated by the sisters to honour Bally, the Judy Murray and Yonex awards were also presented, as well as three 24” silver Staffordshire Trophies. What made the awards even more special was the level of production on the two giant screens on the stage, as the recipient walked up to receive their award, the citation was read out, followed by high energy music and personal videos of the players which were specially produced by the foundation team. The big screens still thanked all those who were meant to attend but could not because of the snow, and also a very special thank you to Jamie Friend, hitter and devoted friend to Bally and an individual who steered the foundation through its darkest hours after Nino and Elena were separated through tragedy. Without Jamie’s devotion, the foundation would have not survived, and everyone present, showed their love and appreciation for this incredible foundation member.


After the awards everyone was ready to enjoy a wonderful Christmas dinner and also to enjoy the spectacular Bumper Cars that were covered in fantastic Christmas lights. The time had come for our very special gift from the WTA, who filmed the best players in the world at the end of year finals in Shangai, what an incredible way for these players to honour Bally. They included Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniaki the two best players in the world, they led the rest of WTA players who all presented their Christmas message to all the guests present, what an incredible part of the evening this was.


A simply magical Christmas evening was had by all, and of course we have so many people and businesses to thank, Ipswich Trade Frames, our event sponsors, Yonex, Touchwood UK, Stringers World and Running Imp. And of course our governing body the WTA and Ipswich Town Soccer players who also attended. And Nigel Sears, Anne Keothavong and Naomi Broady who unfortunately were stopped by the weather, and also Leoni and Martyn Waghorn our great foundation friends. A massive thank you must go out to the WTA for sending some great prizes from Shangai and local businesses for their amazing generosity. And last but by no means least, two foundation members who gave their heart and souls over 5 months of meticulous planning, Aaron Garwood and Lindsay Farish-Caradice.

by Wendy Henderson