Ko in good com­pany with Espy nom­i­na­tion

The Dominion Post - - Olympic Games Countdown -

Ly­dia Ko will again rub shoul­ders with some of the big­gest names in Amer­i­can sports af­ter re­ceiv­ing two nom­i­na­tions for the 2016 Espy Awards.

Ar­guably the high­est pro­file sport­ing awards cer­e­mony in the United States, this year’s list of nom­i­nees in­cludes the likes of NBA lead­ing duo Le­Bron James and Steph Curry, NFL MVP Cam New­ton and MLB star Bryce Harper.

Ko has been nom­i­nated for both the Best Fe­male Golfer and Best In­ter­na­tional Ath­lete af­ter a sen­sa­tional past 12 months which saw the 19-year-old Kiwi win backto-back ma­jors and reach No 1 in the world rank­ings. On Mon­day, she won her third LPGA tour­na­ment this sea­son, and 13th in to­tal, with a three-shot vic­tory at the Arkansas Cham­pi­onship.

Ko won the Best Fe­male Golfer of the ma­jors or an Olympic medal? I don’t know ex­actly. Most of the Olympic sports have their ‘big event’ once every four years with the World Cups and world cham­pi­onships that go on.

‘‘In the golf world, we have our four ma­jors – then every other week there is a big event go­ing on with ma­jor at­ten­tion. The fact that we have an event every week, the Olympics will be an­other event.’’

US health of­fi­cials have con­cluded that Zika in­fec­tions in preg­nant women can cause mi­cro­cephaly, a birth de­fect marked by small head size that can lead to se­vere de­vel­op­men­tal prob­lems in ba­bies.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has said there is strong sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that Zika can also cause Guil­lain-Barre, a rare neu­ro­log­i­cal syn­drome that causes tem­po­rary paral­y­sis in adults.

For women golfers, na­tional pride and greater recog­ni­tion on a global stage ap­pear to be driv­ing forces as they pre­pare for the Rio Sum­mer Games. With the men, award last year but faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion from fel­low nom­i­nees Brooke Hen­der­son, In­bee Park and Ariya Ju­tanu­garn.

The com­pe­ti­tion is even tougher in the in­ter­na­tional cat­e­gory, with foot­ball su­per­stars Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Luis Suarez, men’s ten­nis world No 1 No­vak Djokovic and mid­dleweight box­ing cham­pion Canelo Al­varez all nom­i­nated.

Ko isn’t the only Kiwi to be recog­nised, with reign­ing IndyCar Se­ries cham­pion Scott Dixon nom­i­nated for Best Driver along­side Lewis Hamil­ton, Kyle Busch, Erica En­ders-Stevens and Alexan­der Rossi.

Dixon won three races in 2015 to claim his fourth over­all ti­tle and is cur­rently fourth in this year’s stand­ings.

The glitzy cer­e­mony takes place in Los An­ge­les on July 13. how­ever, Olympic mo­ti­va­tion does not seem to be any­where near as high.

A sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween men and women re­lates to their re­spec­tive 2016 sched­ules for the big­gest golf events.

On the PGA Tour, the last three ma­jors have been crammed into a hec­tic seven-week span from midJune un­til late-July be­cause of the Olympics, a prime rea­son for Aus­tralia’s 2013 Mas­ters cham­pion Adam Scott say­ing no to Rio.

In con­trast, the women’s ma­jors have been gen­er­ously spread out with the first in April, an­other ear­lier this month, two more in July and the fi­nal one of the sea­son to be held in mid-Septem­ber.

‘‘It seemed right to take a break [around the Olympics] for the play­ers,’’ said LPGA com­mis­sioner Mike Whan. ‘‘It’s an ex­cit­ing time for us. I have yet to meet some­body in player din­ing who wasn’t try­ing to fig­ure out if they were go­ing to make it on their coun­try’s team in Rio.’’

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