Four of Bendigo's brightest sporting talents came together last Thursday to be recognised for their tremendous past 12 months in their respective fields. Kayaker Sophie Hughes, swimmer Henry Allan, cyclist Maddie Douglas and gymnast Amelia Mitrovic were all nominated as quarterly winners of the Bendigo Sportsmen Association's Junior Sport's Star of the Year award across the past 12 months. For the second year in a row, Hughes was determined as the overall winner of the award at the BSA's awards night held at Kangaroo Flat Sports Club in front of association members, family and Collingwood Football Club coach Craig McRae, who was the guest speaker. The gun kayaker had a brilliant year collecting three golds and two silvers at the National Marathon Championships in Geelong, six golds and three bronzes at the Victoria Championships and in March, finished second in the K2 1000m sprint at the National Sprint Championships in Perth. "It was really exciting, and I was surprised to win the award again, so I'm very grateful," Hughes said. "My focus is always on my training and getting to my events, but it's nice to be recognised for what I do." The under-16 Marathon National Champion has expanded her repertoire over the past 12 months, competing in white water events while continually improving in marathons. Hughes said it is these disciplines she plans to focus on going forward. "This year, I've been more active doing marathon events, and I've done really well," she said. "Currently, I'm more focused on the marathons plus wild water because I feel that's where I'm putting in my best performances and what I'm enjoying the most." While she trains 12 months a year, Hughes has ramped up her time on the water in the past few weeks as she prepares for a massive summer ahead. "I train all through the year, but I'm currently increasing my training loads as I've got a heap of events coming up from now until April. "I'll be racing the Goulburn Classic on Saturday, and the following weekend, I'll be racing 70 kilometres all up across two days." Bendigo Sportsman's Association vice president Peter Carr was tasked with welcoming the kids on stage. Carr said he was in awe of the budding stars' accomplishments. "I had the pleasure of introducing them and going through their achievements as they walked up to receive their award, and it was mind-blowing to read what these kids are doing," he said. "Even just talking to them about their plans, they can reel off what they want to do over the next 12 months with their sport and education, so they acquitted themselves superbly." Celebrating the young stars' achievements wasn't the only drawcard for the 190 people in attendance, with Magpies 2023 premiership coach McRae giving the kids plenty of helpful advice. "Craig was brilliant, and the young people took a fair bit out of it," Carr said. "We always like our guest speakers to refer back to the sports stars we're recognising, and he did a mighty job of that."