Rowers dominate at Halberg Awards
Rowing has matched the most successful performance of any sport in Halberg history.
Winning four of the traditional top five awards in Auckland last night, only rugby's World Cup-winning All Blacks class of 2011 has ever been so dominant in a single year.
All five of the categories rowing featured in ended up with a success story - thanks to delivering five of New Zealand's 13 medals at the London 2012 Olympics, the nation's most success Games since Seoul 1988.
Untouchable men's pair, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, headed the accolades taking out both the supreme award and team of the year. Cruising to the 2012 Olympic title, Bond and Murray have been unbeatable in the four years since striking their partnership.
But it was rowing's strength in depth which underpinned last night's ceremony.
After five world titles, Mahe Drysdale's realisation of Olympic gold in London made him a clear winner in the sportsman of the year category ahead of Olympic bronze medallists Andrew Nicholson (team eventing) and Simon van Velthooven (cycling), and also All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, whose side lost only one game in 2012.
It's the fourth sportsman of the year gong in his career so far, and like Bond and Murray, Drysdale has already committed to another Olympic campaign in Rio 2016.
Coach of the year honours went, deservedly, to national rowing supremo Richard Tonks.
Drysdale described Tonks as a "mastermind" last night and in typically reserved style Tonks stayed away from the evening, preferring instead, Drysdale said, to deal with training sessions this morning.
Plonking a cherry on top of an already highly decorated cake, the stirring comeback of double scullers Nathan Cohen and Jospeh Sullivan for Olympic gold was the right choice for New Zealand's sporting moment of the year.
Sullivan acknowledged the evening's awards as important to a close band of squad members based at Lake Karapiro.
"It's pretty special for rowing that we're managing to take away so many things, it's a tribute to the training, ambition and pressure we put on ourselves," Sullivan said.
Bond, who for once spoke more than his vociferous crewmate, accepted the pair's honours with grace and gratitude.
"We're just honoured. We're very pleased," Bond said.
"There was a lot of gold medallists out there. Like Eric said earlier, it's apples and oranges."
Murray pointed to the work put in over the hard times that makes the accolades so pleasing.
"When rowing's going well it's really enjoyable. But it's the hard times when things are going that great, your back's up against the wall and the wind is blowing and the rain is pelting down - you've got to be out there.
We've just got to get back into those times we're it's not enjoyable to get into the speed we were at last year.
"We just want to continue winning."
Where rowing wasn't a contender, Valerie Adams continued her vice-like grip on the women's sporting landscape, claiming sportswoman of the year for the seventh year on the bounce.
Adams' category was the closest call of the night, pitted against fellow London 2012 champion, flatwater paddler Lisa Carrington and teenage golf prodigy Lydia Ko.
Now two-time Olympic shot-put champion, Adams acknowledged the stiff competition she was up against this year having come through a tough season which saw her victim of serious administrative errors within the Kiwi Olympic team a drug scandal involving rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk.
"It was a very competitive field and congratulations to the other finalists. It would have been really tough for the judges," Adams said.
"It was a stressful year. I was as prepared and some things happened which were out of my control, but we got through it in the end."
Rightly, after being completely overlooked by the judges for even a place on the finals board for emerging talent in 2011, Ko, 15, claimed the under-20 category after a record-setting year in which she became the youngest ever winner of a professional women's tour event.
Elsewhere, Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe went gone back-to-back retaining her crown of disabled sportsperson of the year.
Pascoe won the inaugural award last year and after claiming six medals at last year's Paralympic Games - three gold, three silver - expectedly got the award again.
Bruce Kendall and Jeff Wilson were inducted into New Zealand sport's hall of fame, administrator Sir John Wells received a Sport New Zealand leadership award and Athletics New Zealand patron and lifetime member Arthur Eustace was given a given a lifetime achievement award.
But the night will be remembered for what is a minority sport, conquering all in it's path.
2012 Halberg Awards:
Overall winner: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing)
Finalists: Mahe Drysdale (rowing), Valerie Adams (athletics), Sophie Pascoe (para-swimming).
Sportsman of the Year: Mahe Drysdale (rowing)
Finalists: Richie McCaw (rugby), Andrew Nicholson (equestrian), Simon van Velthooven (cycling).
Sportswoman of the Year: Valerie Adams (athletics)
Finalists: Lisa Carrington (canoeing), Lydia Ko (golf), Sarah Walker (BMX).
Disabled Sportsperson of the Year: Sophie Pascoe (para-swimming).
Finalists: Mary Fisher (para-swimming), Cameron Leslie (para-swimming), Phillipa Gray (para-cycling)
Team of the Year: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (rowing).
Finalists: All Blacks (rugby), Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (yachting), Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen (rowing), Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (yachting).
Coach of the Year: Richard Tonks (rowing)
Finalists: Calvin Ferguson (rowing), Nathan Handley (sailing), Gordon Walker (canoeing).
Emerging Talent Award: Lydia Ko (golf)
Finalists: Anton Cooper (mountain biking), Dylan Kennett (cycling), Andrew McKenzie (yachting).