Scotland rugby union great Doddie Weir has been honoured with the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show last night.
The gentle giant was close to tears as he thanked his family after receiving a thunderous standing ovation from a sell-out crowd at the P&J Arena in Aberdeen.
And after being presented wioththe award by the Princess Royal, he joked: “It’s quite ironic being a Scottish rugby player in the 90s, this is the closest I ever got to a trophy.”
Weir, 49, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2016 and told he would most likely be in a wheelchair within a year.
Three years on, the former Scotland and Lions star walked on to the stage at the awards ceremony in Aberdeen to the sound of bagpipes playing Flower of Scotland as his fellow team-mates and sporting legends past and present stood to applaud his acheivements.
The Helen Rollason Award recognises outstanding achievement in the face of adversity and was introduced to the show in 1999 in memory of the BBC Sport journalist and presenter who died of cancer that year at the age of 43.
Presenting the award, Princess Anne said: “It’s a pleasure to see Doddie here. I’ve been a Patron of the MND society for 30 year and I know what a difference you’ve made and its impact and your ability to fund research for MND. For that, we are extremely grateful. It has been a real pleasure.” An emotional Weir said: “Thank you very much for this most amazing award. It’s lovely to have my family, and the rugby boys here. What a great Christmas present this has been and to raise awareness of MND.
“From playing sport, I’ve got a bit of spirit and fight and my fight now it is to find a cure for MND.”
MND is the name of a group of illnesses affecting the nerves controlling motor functions - the movement of muscle. MND stops signals reaching the muscles. Over time the muscles weaken and stop working, inhibiting the ability to walk, talk, eat or drink unaided.
There is currently no cure and only one medicine has been licensed in the UK in the last 25 years, which can prolong life for about one to two months.
High-profile sufferers include scientist Stephen Hawking, footballer Fernando Ricksen and campaigner Gordon Aikman. About half of sufferers die within three years of developing symptoms.
The year after his diagnosis he launched his charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which seeks to aid research into the disease and improve the lives of those with MND. To date the foundation has raised almost £5 million.
The former Melrose and Newcastle Falcons lock, who won 61 caps for Scotland and represented the British and Irish Lions on their 1997 South Africa tour, received an OBE earlier this year from the Queen for services to rugby and to charity.
And last night he said: “Sport has also taught me to enjoy myself because you don’t know what’s next so tonight will be pretty special.
“I want to thank my family and most importantly my boys. They always say leave the best to last, that’s my wife Kathy. Your support has been magnificent, I know I’m not the most patient, thank you very much.”