Only right for Rio athletes to make up the numbers at Halbergs

Campbell Stewart, at the Halbergs.
David Rowland/ Photosport

Campbell Stewart, at the Halbergs.

OPINION: The 54th Halberg awards at Vector were such a disappointment – they gave us precious little to gripe about.

There would have been for Manawatu loyalists had cyclist Campbell Stewart not won the emerging talent gong. After four world junior titles in two years, the best by a New Zealander in history, he surely bolted in this time.

Last year, he was pipped by pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, who went on to be one of our stars at Rio de Janeiro and who was one of the presenters of Stewart's award.

If there was a giggler of the year award, it would have been won by the world's happiest athlete, McCartney.

Anyway, for the awards, as long as you placed your bets with the Rio Olympians, you couldn't go wrong.

As All Black coach Steve Hansen correctly predicted on the red carpet, his like were there to make up the numbers.

It was the same in 2012, the year of the London Olympics, when the only major award that didn't go to an Olympian was to golfer Lydia Ko.

Last week, the All Blacks could have landed Richie McCaw on Mars and they still wouldn't have had a look in.

The leadership award confused me. Richie won it in 2013 and this time it went to Paralympics swimmer Sophie Pascoe, whose performances have been outstanding and had to be recognised, so presumably this category would do.

As an aside from that night, please can people when speaking get their heads around the fact the plural of woman is not woman, but women, pronounced "wimmin".

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We must assume that the judges kept their traps shut and didn't reveal the winners. It's just that TV3 bailed up two of the biggies, Lisa Carrington and Mahe Drysdale, on the rouge carpet beforehand.

As another aside, could media interviewers please stop nodding and smiling when their subjects are answering them because it insinuates the interviewer agrees with it all, even when the answers are sometimes a load of cobblers.

Anyway, kayaker Carrington, with two golds at Rio, was the obvious supreme winner.

Lydia Ko was there all glammed up and although she has won two majors, her season fell away after her silver at Rio and she went on to sack her coach, caddie and even her golf clubs, everyone except mum, dad and the sister.

I would also challenge anyone to recite the names of the majors Lydia has won. They are the The Evian Championship and the ANA Inspiration.

Rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, the 2012 overall winners, might have won the team award this time. I understand there was no-one more supportive of the other athletes within the New Zealand team in Rio than Murray.

But they had been such prolific winners it seems it was the turn of golden yachties Burling and Tuke.

The favourite sporting moment might have gone to runner Nikki Hamblin out of sympathy. But it went suitably to McCartney, who put smiles on the faces of the nation when she sailed over those vaults in Rio, maybe because her effort was so unexpected.

Hamblin's generosity in helping the fallen American runner Abbey D'Agostino in their 5000m heat at Rio was fair play, which garnered her an award. But, and I risk sounding like the devil here, Hamblin caused the fall by stumbling on the inside line, taking the American down and it was D'Agostino who first went to Hamblin's aid.

Disabled bladerunner Liam Malone also had the McCartney personality effect at Vector when in his short, sharp speech he told how he would cry in his bedroom wishing he had real legs. They were amputated below the knee when he was 18 months, after being born without a fibula bone in each leg, the same as South African Oscar Pistorius

Malone's 200m and 400m times for winning at Rio (21.06s and 46.20s) eclipsed the Paralympic records of Pistorius (21.30, 46.68), who is serving his sentence for murder in Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in Pretoria.

Rio team chef de mission Rob Waddell was there at the awards presenting the supreme award. And yet the deputy chef de mission Trevor Shailer was at home in Palmerston North eating macaroni cheese and watching it all on television.

He had been the deputy three times – at the Youth Olympics in 2015, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and at Rio, as well as six times being a leader in athlete support at various games.

That should have been enough to merit an invitation this time, especially since he has called it a day to concentrate on his role as Sport Manawatu chief executive.

It was good to see Arch Jelley, who was attending his first Halberg Awards, at the age of 94. He was the coach of John Walker, but Jelley still looked a picture of health.

 - Stuff

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