Panel plumps for Olympian

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 08:00 10/11/2012
Stephanie Dickins
FEILDING'S FINEST: Stephanie Dickins was stunned to win the junior sportswoman title.

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It is hard to see what more Aaron Smith could have done to win the Manawatu sportsperson-of-the-year title at the Awapuni Function Centre last night.

But the starting All Black who has revolutionised halfback play with his high-octane passing this year in the national game was overlooked in favour of one of Manawatu's two Olympic Games cycling bronze medallists, Simon van Velthooven.

It would have been no surprise had van Velthooven, who tied for the keirin bronze at London, also won the personality award. He was personality plus at London and is the guy who has invited the nation to his 21st party at home at Kopane.

Van Velthooven tweeted from Japan: "Proud to be from a great sporting province. Congratulations to all the other athletes; epic year.

"Manawatu sportsman of the year! One of the harder things to win. Huge honour."

Perhaps Smith will get his chance next year when he's not up against Olympians.

The personality award is decided by public voting on the Sport Manawatu website and both the early leader, Smith, a bubbly character in his own right, and van Velthooven were run down by cycling coach Mike McRedmond. He won the supreme award in 1983, when he was a rider.

With 1164 votes recorded, McRedmond won by about 150 from Smith.

McRedmond's feat in coaching the two Olympic bronze medallists should also have seen him a sitter for the coach's award. But that went to Paul Macdermid who has achieved in athletics and mountainbiking.

Often the major sports codes battle for recognition from awards judging panels, as evidenced by Manawatu's Black Caps cricketer Adam Milne being snubbed for the second year in a row; he wasn't even a finalist. The same goes for New Zealand cricket captain Ross Taylor.

There was also Junior Tomasi Cama who was the world rugby sevens player of the year.

It must have been one heck of a job for the panel to separate van Velthooven and the 2008 Manawatu sportsperson winner Jesse Sergent, also a London Games bronze medallist pursuit powerhouse as well as a high-profile road professional in Europe.

Sadly, neither of the top two winners was present last night. Van Velthooven was keirin racing in Japan and Black Sticks women's hockey captain Kayla Sharland had Massey exams and a wedding at her new abode in Christchurch.

Sharland was overdue for recognition thanks to her leadership of the team at the London Olympics while team-mate Emily Naylor had won the overall award in 2009. Had they won a bronze, as the Black Sticks came close to doing, that would have thrown the awards panel into more of a spin.

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We must also ask, where was world freestyle motocross champion, Levi Sherwood? He wasn't nominated, mainly because there is no obvious organisation in his sport to nominate him; but the panel could easily have done that.

Things were less arbitrary in the junior awards which went to Levin golfer Tyler Hodge, who represents Manawatu-Wanganui, and to a stunned Feilding High School athlete Stephanie Dickins (from Apiti) in a very even women's field. Hodge became the first player to win the New Zealand and Australia boys' titles and is the best junior in the country, while Dickins also excels in hockey.

Other junior contenders must have been NZ under-20 star rugby player Jason Emery and athlete Kara Macdermid who pipped Dickins for the Manawatu schools award.

Tararua College field athlete Ashley Exeter became the first disabled sportsperson winner, even heading off bowler Barry Wynks who only competes in full competition and wins more than he loses.

Exeter has an artificial leg after her leg was amputated when she was aged three because she was born without a fibula.

Olympic Games table tennis umpire in London, Val Scarr, took the officials' award.

The Northern Bowling Club's women's team, who won the national interclub title, claimed the teams' title.

Manawatu golfing legend Jean Whitehead, winner of nine national titles, was inducted into the Manawatu Legends of Sport.

Peter Lampp was not a member of the sports awards panel.

RECENT WINNERS

2012 Simon van Velthooven (cycling) 2011 Aaron Cruden (rugby) 2010 Emily Naylor (hockey) 2009 Ross Taylor (cricket) 2008 Jesse Sergent (cycling) 2007 Kris Gemmell (triathlon) 2006 Kalon Dobbin (skating) 2005 Kalon Dobbin (skating) 2004 Sharon Sims (lawn bowls) 2003 Jacob Oram (cricket) 2002 Sharon Sims (lawn bowls) 2001 Jacob Oram (cricket) 2000 Sharon Sims (lawn bowls).

- Manawatu Standard

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