THE cream of the county’s sporting talent is gearing up for the eagerly awaited Flintshire Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

Today the Leader meets three inspirational people who have gone that extra mile in their chosen sport and are all hoping to take the crown in the prestigious Services to Sport category.

The first hopeful is pensioner Merle Hamilton who has been nominated for her dedication to netball.

Merle, 61, from Sychdyn has been involved with the sport for more than 30 years.

She coaches children from seven-years-old to adults and is chairman of the Flintshire County Netball Association.

She said: “I became a volunteer through my love of sport, not to be a success, but to be of value to help others reach their netball goals.

“I am a happy person because of it and have achieved a lot.

“My hope is that I inspire others to give something back to something they enjoy.”

Also vying for the title is basketball coach Pat Sanders, from the Wirral.

Pat, 57, who is secretary of the North Wales Basketball Association, is registered disabled, but has been coaching on a voluntary basis for the past 10 years.

She said: “I do it for the kids.

“I am so shocked they put me up for it, and although I would love to win the award. I just love spending time with the youngsters.” The final nominee hoping to take the crown is football coach Cledwyn Ashford.

Retired teacher Cledwyn, from Cefnybedd, has dedicated his life to the sport.

The former Bryn Coch Primary School headteacher launched the Flintshire Schools Under-11s Team in 1991 alongside his friends the late Ron Bishop and Dave Nickless.

The 58-year-old has coached some big names in the world of football including Michael Owen, Gary Speed and Aaron Ramsey.

He told the Leader: “I feel very, very proud to be nominated because there are some very special people who win this award and I’m very humbled to even be nominated.

“I’m lucky because I have worked with some fantastic people over the years and have had thousands of boys and girls play football for me.”

The winners will be announced on March 12.