Inspirational swimming coach Graham Martin said he was flabbergasted to be named the BBC Unsung Hero for the East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire region.
The Kingston Upon Hull Swimming Club coach is one of 15 regional winners who will be attending the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony at the P&J Live Arena, Aberdeen, on Sunday 15 December.
There he will discover if he has won the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero national prize for 2019.
Graham, who has volunteered at the club for 20 years, admitted the honour came as a complete shock – and said it was an award for everyone associated with Kingston Upon Hull SC.
“Winning the regional award is massive for me. It’s like winning a Willy Wonka golden ticket. For people like me, these things do not come along very often.“
“It’s a golden opportunity and, at the end of the day, it’s for everyone back at the club.”
Graham said swimming has always been a part of his life and he first got involved with Kingston when his daughter started lessons.
“They got me hook, line and sinker,” he laughed. “The next thing, I’m a fully qualified coach.
“Through my life, I’ve always been a very sporty person. I used to swim when I was younger but not to the standards of the swimmers I coach now. I had a motorbike accident and to recoup, I got back into the pool and started swimming.
“I can’t run so it was part of my exercise regime and I have always loved it. Now I’m a coach, I can’t get in the water!”
For five nights a week and whenever galas are held, Graham is poolside – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
And he praised his partner, Margaret, for her support while he is away from home at training and events
“Margaret has been the rock behind me,” he said. “All us volunteers are just a cog in the wheel and we all have to work together to develop every swimmer.
“I get the satisfaction of seeing a swimmer come in, developing and moving on through their career. It’s about enjoying it.
“Not everyone is going to be the next Adam Peaty but it’s about having the same, reachable goals and getting them to their potential.
“No-one knows where they are going to go when they start but it’s about giving every swimmer that chance.”
Graham was interviewed by the BBC at his work and the pool where Kingston Upon Hull train but still had no clue he had won the regional trophy – until parent Sue Brodie, who had submitted his nomination, stunned him and other swimmers by handing over the prize.
“Sue got people at the swimming club together to write a letter nominating me,” he said. “They had to ask me if I would allow them to nominate me. I said yes but was not expecting anything and it all went quiet.
“I was then told the TV cameras were coming down to my garage to interview me and also poolside. I was told they were filming six people and the film would be judged by a panel to choose the winner.
“It’s memorable. Everyone who volunteers does lots and lots of work and this is a pat on the back for them. They are the backbone of every club, every athlete and every future champion.
“I’m the lucky one as I’m off to Aberdeen but there are a lot of people behind me that need thanking – and I want to thank them for giving me this opportunity.”
Swimmers at the club hailed Graham as ‘an amazing person who inspires us to train hard as possible’, someone who ‘is very supportive’ and ‘an overall nice guy’.
Sue said: “It gives him the recognition he deserves.
“There are lots of different abilities at the club and some children with ADHD but he tailors the swimming to them.
“He does not think he is anything special but my goodness we all do.”