A new breed of sports stars

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

New Zealand’s rate of in­ter­na­tional sports achieve­ments is in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially. It’s dif­fi­cult to keep up.

Ev­ery month, it seems, we’re sa­lut­ing our record-break­ing All Blacks, our row­ers or cy­clists, emerg­ing golf star Ly­dia Ko, ca­noeist Lisa Car­ring­ton, the fab­u­lous Va­lerie Adams or some other sports hero.

There was a time when New Zealand’s true tri­umphs in the in­ter­na­tional arena were rel­a­tively scarce. A world ti­tle was guar­an­teed front page head­lines and an Olympic medal was so rare it could ce­ment a rep­u­ta­tion for a lifetime.

But New Zealand won 13 medals at just the 2012 London Olympics, six of them gold.

I’ve been hav­ing a think about our new wave of sports stars.

In 2006 I was in­volved in a project to se­lect New Zealand’s top 100 sports his­tory-mak­ers.

The 100 fi­nally cho­sen by the panel of eight cov­ered more than 100 years of New Zealand sport. The top 10 we came up with were Peter Snell (ath­let­ics) 1, Ed­mund Hil­lary (moun­taineer­ing) 2, Richard Hadlee ( cricket) 3, Colin Meads (rugby) 4, John Walker (ath­let­ics) 5, Jack Love­lock (ath­let­ics) 6, Danyon Loader (swimming) 7, Bob Charles ( golf) 8, Yvette Wil­liams ( ath­let­ics) 9, Arthur Ly­di­ard (ath­let­ics) 10.

Oth­ers who might be of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in­cluded Rus­sell Coutts ( yacht­ing) 19, Michael Camp­bell (golf) 20, Mark Todd ( eques­trian) 21, Jonah Lomu (rugby) 22, Sarah Ulmer (cy­cling) 23, Caro­line and Ge­orgina Ever­sSwindell (row­ing) 43, Irene van Dyk (netball) 53, Stephen Flem­ing (cricket) 59.

It is in­cred­i­ble how much the New Zealand sports scene has changed in just the few years since that vot­ing took place.

A top 100 now would cer­tainly in­clude Va­lerie Adams (ath­let­ics), Hamish Bond and Eric Mur­ray, Mahe Drysdale ( row­ing) and Richie McCaw ( rugby). Oth­ers who would be dif­fi­cult to omit would be Sophie Pas­coe (dis­abled swimming), Ryan Nelsen (foot­ball), Ali­son Shanks ( cy­cling), Hay­den Roul­ston (cy­cling), Be­van Docherty ( triathlon), Daniel Carter ( rugby), Nick Wil­lis ( ath­let­ics), Lisa Car­ring­ton (ca­noe­ing), Val Smith (bowls), Jo Ed­wards (bowls), Daniel Vet­tori ( cricket) and coaches Gra­ham Henry ( rugby), Ricki Her­bert ( foot­ball) and Ruth Aitken (netball).

In ad­di­tion, the Evers-Swindell sis­ters would have a stronger case after their ex­cit­ing Olympic gold medal in 2008 and Todd would have strength­ened his case after his un­likely come­back in his 50s to the top of three-day event­ing.

Two for the near fu­ture would be Ly­dia Ko ( golf) and Steve Adams (bas­ket­ball).

Even our orig­i­nal top 10, which was full of leg­ends, would surely look dif­fer­ent. Val Adams, with her two Olympic golds, four world ti­tles and three Com­mon­wealth Games golds, must find a place, and can McCaw and the BondMur­ray com­bi­na­tion be omit­ted?

I sup­pose the key words were ‘‘his­tory mak­ers’’. Who has been more of a his­tory-maker: Meads or McCaw? Per­haps McCaw, with his record num­ber of tests and cap­tain­ing the All Blacks to a World Cup tri­umph, shades the great Pine­tree. Sim­i­larly, Yvette Wil­liams or Val Adams? Are Adams’ gold medals just too much to ig­nore?

Does the Bond-Mur­ray com­bi­na­tion, su­perb though it is, have the his­tory-mak­ing el­e­ment of a Hil­lary, Love­lock or Ly­di­ard?

My top 10 now would be Snell 1, Hil­lary 2, Adams 3, Hadlee 4, Walker 5, Love­lock 6, Loader 7, McCaw 8, Charles 9, Ly­di­ard 10.

Let the ar­gu­ments be­gin.

Pho­tos: FAIR­FAX

From left, Va­lerie Adams, Richie McCaw and Hamish Bond, left, and Eric Mur­ray lead the way

Mod­ern cham­pi­ons: to­day.

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