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Wednesday, December 31, 1997 Published at 00:02 GMT


Sport salutes hard-hitting stars
image: [ Squadron Leader Andy Green, who drove the record-breaking Thrust car, receives the OBE ]
Squadron Leader Andy Green, who drove the record-breaking Thrust car, receives the OBE

Some of sport's best-known stars are saluted in the New Year honours list, including soccer legend Tom Finney, who is knighted, and victorious British Lions captain Martin Johnson, who receives the OBE.

Others honoured by the Queen are Scotland goalkeeper, Jim Leighton; top golfer and coach, Vivien Saunders; and Grand National-winning trainer, Jenny Pitman.

[ image: Jenny Pitman OBE:
Jenny Pitman OBE: "It has been difficult to keep the award a secret, particularly from my family."
Tessa Sanderson, the 1984 Olympic javelin champion who appeared in her sixth games in Atlanta in 1997 having first competed in Moscow in 1980, receives the more prestigious OBE to go with the MBE she received in 1985.

Fiery striker

Jack Rowell, who stepped down as England's rugby union coach after leading the team to a Five Nations Championship Grand Slam, three Triple Crowns and a World Cup semi-final, receives the OBE.

Mark Hughes, who made his name with Manchester United and also played in Spain for Barcelona, receives the MBE. The fiery Welsh striker won four FA Cup winners medals, the latest with his current club, Chelsea, last season.

The OBE also goes to Squadron Leader Andy Green, who drove the Thrust supersonic car to a 763mph world land-speed record in Nevada during October.

Peter Goss, a sailor who turned back in heavy seas during a round-the-world yacht race to rescue fellow competitor Raphael Dinelli of France, also receives the OBE. For his bravery, the French awarded Goss the Legion d'honneur.

Fitting tribute

Soccer legend Tom Finney caught up with his great pal and fellow winger Stanley Matthews after receiving his knighthood.

And while some experts insist it is 30 years late in coming, it is a fitting tribute for a modest man with a mercurial talent who graced the England international scene in the 1950s.

[ image: Sir Tom Finney:
Sir Tom Finney: "I'm delighted and thrilled. It's a great way to start the New Year."
"You couldn't have a bigger honour," he said. "You are up there with people like Bobby Charlton, Stanley Matthews, Alf Ramsey and Matt Busby. It's marvellous and I'm thrilled to bits."

Finney, 75, enjoyed a 22-year career with Preston North End - his only club - after joining the ground staff at the age of 16 in 1938. He made 76 appearances for England and scored 30 goals despite losing part of his career to the Second World War, when he fought in the African and Italian campaigns.

'Huge tribute to colleagues'

British Lions captain Martin Johnson is dedicating his OBE to his team-mates on the recent tour of South Africa.

The Leicester skipper was instrumental in the Lions' 2-1 Test series success, as well helping his club to win the Cup back home.

[ image: Martin Johnson OBE:
Martin Johnson OBE: "My award is a tribute to my colleagues' performances in beating the Springboks."
Johnson said: "I am surprised and delighted to be honoured. At the start of 1997 if I had been told that so much would happen to me during the year I would not have believed it.

"Of course my award represents a huge tribute to my British Lions colleagues' fantastic performances in beating the Springboks in the summer."

'Inspiration to thousands'

Alf Gover, one of county cricket's most prolific wicket-takers and an inspiration to thousands as the English game's leading coach, received the MBE.

Surrey legend Gover, 89, took 100 wickets in a season eight times and twice snared 200 in one campaign with his right-arm pace bowling.

His career was interrupted by the Second World War but still included four appearances for England - against New Zealand and India. He played 336 times for his county and also represented Bedfordshire.

Click here for the New Year's honours list in full.


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