Who would You Pick?

Sports people of the year: Spoilt for choice!

 By Roger Childs

The biggest problem for the Halberg judges this year is to how to select the contenders from a wealth of Kiwi world champions.

The Halberg Awards will be presented in Auckland on February 14 — and  they should always go to Kiwis who have proved themselves to be the world’s best.

But sentiment shouldn’t come into it, as happened in 2010.

The All Whites won the team award and the supreme award for doing very well by New Zealand standards and creating great excitement at the World Cup finals.

However, they failed to win a game and didn’t get past the first round so should not have been in the running for the Halberg Awards!

Tough choices this time

The big problem for the judges every year is making comparisons.

  • How do you weigh up a top performer in a small sport like speed skating with a world class rugby player?
  • There are obviously a lot more world class golfers than there are shot putters!
  • Is it easier to win a world mountain biking title than to be a world swimming champion?
  • Should disabled sportspeople be ranked with able bodied athletes?

Sophie Pascoe: sportswoman of the year?

It won’t happen, as she has not even been nominated. Sports writer Hamish Bidwell expressed a viewpoint which has a lot of support amongst the sporting public … ‘thanks to the three gold and three silver medals Pascoe won at the London Paralympics, her high public profile, and recent collection of the supreme award at the Sport Canterbury Awards, there is a suggestion the swimmer might have been a worthy finalist in the sportswoman of the year.

However the Halberg organisation, which set up the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award last year (which Pascoe won) want that category to remain strong.

Pascoe seems certain to win Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award again this year and there is always the possibility of giving her the Halberg supreme award.

Weighing up the top women

Valerie Adams has reigned supreme in this category for six years on the basis of dominating women’s shot putting at the top level. In 2012 she continued her world dominance and eventually won the Olympic gold medal after the original first place getter tested positive for drugs.

However this year she has some real competition for Sportswoman of the Year.

  • Lisa Carrington is the world’s best K1 200m paddler and proved it by winning gold in London.
  • Alison Shanks won the 3000m women’s individual pursuit at the world championships in Melbourne but sadly this event did not feature at the Olympics.
  • Lydia Ko retained her position as top world amateur golfer and showed her class against the professionals too.

This year Ko should take the award on the back of some amazing world class performances in a very competitive sport. Consider her achievements:

  • She won the Mark McCormack Medal as the world’s top ranked amateur for the second year running.
  • In winning the New South Wales Open at the age of 14, she became the youngest player in the world to win a professional tournament.
  • She won the Australian Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
  • She became the second youngest winner of the US Amateur Championship.
  • She beat 19 of the world’s top 20 professional golfers to win the Canadian Women’s Open by three shots in Vancouver.
  • In the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, she shot a four-round total of 274, which was the best score by 6 shots and the lowest score in the history of the tournament.

Comparing the men and the teams

There are 12 nominations in the Sportsman of the Year category, including All Black captain Ritchie McCaw, gold medallist single sculler Mahe Drysdale and freestyle motocross world champion Levi Sherwood. These three are probably the favourites — with Drysdale, a three time previous winner, likely to prevail.

‘Another nightmare for the judges will be deciding the team of the year’ — Lawrence Smith. Few would disagree with  Smith’s view. There are 18 nominations, including Olympic gold medal winners in rowing and yachting; the world champions in surf lifesaving; the top ranked netball and rugby teams and the winners of southern hemisphere competitions in rugby, netball and men’s basketball.

The team award is very hard to pick, but my choice is the Men’s Rowing Pair, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. They were unbeaten in 2012 and always won their races comfortably. Add to this the expected Olympic gold medal, plus a world record at London, and the pair have the edge against the rest.

Being supreme

It’s not easy being a judge especially for picking the best of the best. I’ll go for Murray and Bond with their unbeaten run, world record time and Olympic gold medal combination. If sentiment was allowed to reign Sophie Pascoe would be the one.