Olympians picked to trump Ko at Halbergs

Lydia Ko has had a phenomenal year.  (Photo by Joseph Johnson/Getty Images)
Lydia Ko has had a phenomenal year. (Photo by Joseph Johnson/Getty Images)
Every four years the Olympics roll around which means every four years Olympians dominate the Halberg Awards and it will happen again at a gala function in Auckland tonight.

Only once has a non-Olympian won the Supreme Award in Olympic year - Sir Richard Hadlee in 1980 - and that was when only five New Zealand athletes competed at Moscow because of the widespread boycott by Western countries.

In the major categories, kayaker Lisa Carrington will probably win the Sportswoman of the Year Award, single sculler Mahe Drysdale will probably take the Sportsman of the Year gong, rowers Eric Murray and Hamish Bond will win the team's award and Bond and Murray should be favourites to pick up the Supreme Halberg Award.

They are the ones who will probably win. It doesn't necessarily mean they are the ones who should win.

The women's category is arguably the hardest to pick, with Valerie Adams also on the shortlist, but it's hard to look past teenage golfing sensation Lydia Ko, who has had a phenomenal 18 months.

Not only did the 15-year-old become the youngest winner in professional golf history when she picked up the NSW Open title but she also became the youngest to win on the LPGA Tour when she beat nine of the world's top 10 to claim the Canadian Open by four shots.

To add to her list of achievements, Ko also finished as the leading amateur on her major debut at the US Open and again at the British Open, became the first Kiwi to win the US Amateur Championship and the youngest in history to win the Australian Amateur.

She finished her year in style by winning the individual competition at the Espirito Santo World Amateur Team's Championship in Turkey and, while it falls out of the judging period, has followed it up with a win at last week's New Zealand Women's Open.

This is not to denigrate the achievements of others. Far from it. They have all achieved at the highest level.

Bond and Murray would be worthy winners of the Supreme Award. The men's pairs combination went through their Olympic cycle unbeaten, even scaring off their main rivals from Great Britain who abandoned their campaign and joined a four, and won the Olympic final in terrible conditions by nearly half the length of Eton Dorney.

It's another reason why rowing guru Dick Tonks should win the Coach of the Year award - although Carrington's mentor Gordon Walker deserves special mention in a sport recently torn apart by political infighting - and hugely-decorated swimmer Sophie Pascoe is favourite in the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year category.

Ko is a shoo-in for the Emerging Talent award. It's just she probably deserves more than that.

And the finalists are ...

Sportswoman of the Year: Lisa Carrington (canoeing), Valerie Adams (athletics), Lydia Ko (golf), Sarah Walker (BMX).

Sportsman of the Year: Mahe Drysdale (rowing), Andrew Nicholson (equestrian), Simon van Velthooven (cycling), Richie McCaw (rugby).

Disabled sportsperson of the Year: Cameron Leslie, Mary Fisher, Sophie Pascoe (all Para swimming), Phillipa Gray (Para cycling).

Team of the Year: Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen (rowing, men's double scull), Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (rowing, men's pair), Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (sailing, women's 470), Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (sailing, men's 49er), All Blacks (rugby).

*The supreme Halberg Award comes from the winner of these categories

Emerging Talent: Andrew McKenzie (sailing), Lydia Ko (golf), Dylan Kennett (track cycling), Anton Cooper (mountainbiking).

Coach of the Year: Gordon Walker (canoeing), Richard Tonks (rowing), Calvin Ferguson (rowing), Nathan Handley (sailing)

- Michael Brown of APNZ

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