Looking to the Halberg awards
The 2012 Halberg awards will be tighter than ever after New Zealand’s remarkable success at the London Olympics.
With due respect to the Chiefs rugby team, the Magic netballers and other headline performers in 2012, the Halberg winners will be Olympians.
Except for 1980, when New Zealand largely boycotted the Moscow games, in an Olympic year the Halberg winner, formerly known as the Sportsman of the Year, has always been an Olympian.
That’s how it should be, because the Olympics is the pinnacle of world sport. Do well in that arena and you can truly say you’ve beaten the best in the world. Here’s how I see the awards. Sportsman: Mahe Drysdale will win this one.
The five- times world single sculls champion finally won the gold medal that eluded him in Beijing in 2008.
Drysdale, the big man in the 2012 Olympic team, was under great pressure going into the final, but delivered, winning convincingly from his closest rival, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.
Sportswoman: A tight battle between shot putter Valerie Adams and sprint kayaker Lisa Carrington.
Adams was lifted from silver medallist to gold medallist the day after the Olympics finished.
Carrington, a breath of fresh air in New Zealand sport, was superb. In a race that punishes the slightest error, she was in a class of her own in London. How to separate them? Adams was unbeaten in 2012, whereas Carrington had one loss in a lesser race.
Women’s shot putting is not the most widely contested track-andfield event, but on the other hand, the K1 200 sprint is a new Olympic race and the event is still evolving.
Adams was below her best at the Olympics, despite winning gold, whereas Carrington was in peak form.
It’s a flip of the coin, but for me Carrington shades it.
Team: Three teams won golds at the Olympics – pairs rowers Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan, and women’s 470 champions Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh.
There were several other medallists, all deserving great praise – the three-day eventers, men’s 470 silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the cycling men’s team pursuiters, lightweight double scullers Storm Uru and Peter Taylor, and the women’s pair of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown, but the winner of the team category will be a gold medallist.
Much as I admired how Powrie and Aleh rose to the occasion on the last day of their competition, and was amazed by the withering finishing sprint of Cohen and Sullivan, I give this one to Murray and Bond.
They didn’t just win the gold medal – they absolutely thrashed all opposition. In fact, they have been so dominant since 2008 that some top rowers avoided them in London by contesting other events.
Despite the burden of being overpowering favourites, Murray and Bond won their final by an unprecedented margin, a rowing equivalent of Usain Bolt.
Murray and Bond should also get the big gong, the Halberg Award, for their incredible dominance.
Coach: It is impossible to go past Dick Tonks, the mastermind behind the rowing squad’s successes for more than a decade and the individual coach of several medal-winning crews. Isn’t it time he was knighted? He’s been more outstanding over a longer period than Graham Henry.