Just three in the running
By Roger Childs
This will be a closely contested race between three world champions: the men’s rowing pair, the men’s cycling team and the 49er yachtsmen. Not in the hunt, are the Auckland City Football Club who were third in the World Club Championships, and the Kiwi League team who won the World Cup.
Third is not good enough when you are up against world champions and the league tournament had only four participating teams. The other three nominees were the best on the planet in hotly contested sports. One surprise is that our world champion Surf Life Saving team didn’t make the cut.
The unprecedented Men’s Rowing Pair
In the Amsterdam World Championships in late August, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray set themselves the unique challenge of winning both the
- coxless pairs
- coxed pairs.
In the latter event they would be carrying 55kg coxswain Caleb Shepherd. The media wondered if this was a race too far and might endanger their amazing winning streak in the coxless pair. They needn’t have worried.
The extra weight in the boat was no problem. Helped by a favourable tail wind Bond, Murray and Shepherd, who probably couldn’t believe his luck, demolished the field to post a world’s best time by nearly 9 seconds.
Then the following day they came from last at half way to win by over 4 seconds. This was their 19th consecutive victory in the coxless pair.
With over 50 consecutive wins, Murray and Bond are the most successful rowers in the history of the sport. They probably have the inside running for Team of the Year.
Men’s Sprint Cycling Team: simply the best
Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins won gold at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Cali, Colombia by less than half a second. The Germans had beaten them in last year’s team sprint and after two laps looked like bagging another victory.
Eddie Dawkins took over on the last lap with a deficit of 0.037 of a second. With a withering burst of speed he caught and passed Germany’s Maximilian Levy, a four-time world champion.
Sam Webster summed it up: “It was a very tight race – only a couple of hundredths of a second separated us the whole way. It was Eddie that brought it home for us. He was the one that pulled the cat out of the bag and won the race for us.”
It was New Zealand’s first ever win in this event at the World Championships. Not surprisingly, the trio went on to win gold against lesser competition in the Commonwealth Games men’s sprint in Glasgow.
With their historic win in February, Mitchell, Webster and Dawkins are strong contenders for Sports Team of The Year.
49er yachtsmen: the world’s best by along way
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were in a class of their own in the 49er in 2014, winning every major event they entered including two World Cup regattas, the European Championships and an Olympic test event in Rio.
However the most important victory was in the ISAF World Championships in Santander, Spain where they won back-to-back world titles with clinical efficiency. They finished an incredible 46 points clear of the rest of the fleet, which included the 2012 Olympic gold medalists Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen.
Not surprisingly they won Yachting New Zealand’s sailor of the year award for the second straight year. The 49ers would be worthy Team of the Year winners.
KIN’s pick: a tough choice!
This award should not go to gallant triers or teams that exceed expectations like the All Whites in 2010. That’s why it’s ridiculous to have added the Auckland Football FC to the finalists at the last minute. We had at least six world champion teams in 2014 and only four made the cut.
The selection panel will probably go for Murray and Bond, who are without peer in world rowing history. Their sensational two golds in the world championships was an extraordinary feat. They were team winners in 2009 and 2012 and won the Supreme Award, as well, two years ago.
However KIN, tacking into the wind, would like Sports Team of the Year go to Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. In the highly competitive world of yachting they won every event they entered, including four with international class fields, and the world championships.
Sail on, sail on, O mighty 49ers!