The exceptional performances of New Zealand athletes and teams in 2013 has resulted in 25 finalists being named for six categories at the Westpac Halberg Awards - the country’s leading event to honour and celebrate sporting excellence.
Numerous successes on the world stage sees the finalists coming from 16 different sports codes including; swimming, cycling, para shooting, equestrian, motorsport, blind bowling and softball. Yachting and rugby feature as strong contenders with three apiece in line for awards.
A Voting Academy consisting of 30 former athletes, coaches and media representatives selected the finalists from a list of 58 nominations.
When selecting the finalists the Voting Academy had to determine whether the achievements represented excellence in sport at the highest level. They also considered if it was in that sport's 'pinnacle event', whether it was a world record, a world ranking or recognition, the quality of the field or competition and the global nature of the sport.
World number four ranked golfer Lydia Ko is among the High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year Award finalists. The category will be hotly contested by world champion canoeist Lisa Carrington, swimmer Lauren Boyle who won three bronze medals at the FINA World Championships, and shot put world champion Valerie Adams, who finished undefeated in 2013.
Para swimming champions Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher, who each won five gold medals at the IPC World Championships, are finalists in the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation Disabled Sportsperson of the Year Award category. They are joined by blind bowling world champion David Monk and para shooting world record holder Mike Johnson in line for the award.
IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and IRB Player of the Year, All Black Kieran Read, have been shortlisted for the High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportsman of the Year category along with world number one eventing champion Andrew Nicholson and track cycling world champion Aaron Gate.
The world champion Black Sox and undefeated All Blacks are up for the Westpac Team of the Year category along with two world champion yachting crews; Women’s 470 (Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie) and the Men’s 49er Class Team (Peter Burling and Blair Tuke). While world rowing champion Men’s Pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are again in line for the Award they won in 2012.
The winners of the Sportsman, Sportswoman, Disabled Sportsperson and Team of the Year Award categories will again be eligible for the country’s most prestigious accolade for sporting excellence- the Halberg Award. Rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will be vying to take home the supreme award for a second year running.
Nathan Handley who coached the Women’s 470 and Women’s 49er FX teams to world championship wins is up for the Coach of the Year category along with Eddie Kohlhase (Black Sox), Steven Hansen (All Blacks) and Guy Wilson (Lydia Ko).
The Westpac Emerging Talent award finalists for 2013 are surfer Ella Williams, up and coming rower Tom Murray, motorcyclist Jake Lewis and swimmer Gabrielle Fa’amausili.
The Westpac ‘Emerging Talent' award is designed to identify and assist a young athlete in their quest to become an Olympic, Paralympic and/or World Champion, and hopefully one day win the Halberg Award. Finalists must be aged under 20 at 30 November, 2013 and the winner also receives a $10,000 Westpac sporting scholarship.
The annual Westpac Halberg Awards provide an essential fundraising event for the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, the charity set up by Olympic champion Sir Murray Halberg (ONZ), which aims to enhance the lives of physically disabled New Zealanders by enabling them to participate in sport and recreation.
Halberg Disability Sport Foundation CEO, Geoff Burgess, says it’s good to see a diverse range of sports represented in the awards finalists.
“It shows just how successful our athletes have been across various sports codes in 2013 and hopefully inspires the future world, Olympic and Paralympic champions to aim high,” says Burgess.
Other award categories that will be presented on the night include; New Zealand’s Favourite Sporting Moment (finalists announced in mid-January) the Sport New Zealand Leadership Award and inductees into the Sports Hall of Fame.
The full list of finalists for the 51st Westpac Halberg Awards:
High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportsman of the Year: Aaron Gate (Cycling), Andrew Nicholson (Equestrian), Kieran Read (Rugby), Scott Dixon (Motorsport).
High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year: Lauren Boyle (Swimming), Lisa Carrington (Canoeing), Lydia Ko (Golf), Valerie Adams (Athletics).
Halberg Disability Sport Foundation Disabled Sportsperson of the Year: David Monk (Blind Bowling), Mary Fisher (Para Swimming), Mike Johnson (Para Shooting), Sophie Pascoe (Para Swimming).
Westpac Team of the Year: All Blacks (Rugby), Black Sox (Softball), Men’s Pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (Rowing), Women’s 470 - Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (Yachting) and Men’s 49er Class Team- Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (Yachting).
Coach of the Year: Eddie Kohlhase (Softball), Guy Wilson (Golf), Nathan Handley (Yachting), Steve Hansen (Rugby).
Westpac Emerging Talent: Ella Williams (Surfing), Gabrielle Fa’amausili (Swimming), Jake Lewis (Motorcycling), Tom Murray (Rowing).
The 30-strong Voting Academy comprising media representatives, former athletes and coaches is:
Andy Hay, Hamish Carter, Ron Palenski, Danyon Loader, TeArahi Maipi, Mark Sorensen, Andrew Mulligan, Philippa Baker Hogan, Michelle Pickles, Ron Cheatley, Rikki Swannell, Duane Kale, Mike Stanley, Dana Johannsen, Jayne Kiely, Jonathan Millmow, Farah Palmer, Dave Leggat, Ramesh Patel, Marc Hinton, Mark Richardson, Brendan Telfer, Awen Guttenbiel, Fred Woodcock, Graeme Crosby, Adine Wilson, Michael Jones, Sarah Ulmer, Susie Simcock, Beatrice Faumuina.
For full eligibility and judging criteria go to www.halbergawards.co.nz