What a year it's been for New Zealand sport

Last updated 12:31 08/12/2013

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They're on a winning streak ... with no plans to slow down any time soon. We take a quick gander at the fortunes of our top six sporting icons and what they did in 2013.

VALERIE ADAMS

Who, or what, can stop the indomitable Adams who's carving a pretty special place for herself in her sport's history? Her first challenge for the new year will be to get herself back up to speed after knee and ankle surgery that she's confident will prolong her career past Rio in 2016. When the time's right, the towering Kiwi will return to competition, and there's no reason to think she won't be just as dominant, or possibly even more so after clearing up a couple of niggles that nearly caused her to pull the pin on her 2013 season mid-campaign. "I'm not going to rush anything, but you will definitely see me in Glasgow [in 2014]," promised Adams. "I'm not ready to retire. I'm still winning, I still love what I do and I still believe there is more distance in me." Given she says she was competing only around "90 per cent" in 2013, it's a scary thought how long she can continue to rule her sport. She won all 13 events she contested this year, becoming the first female shot- putter to claim four world crowns, and throwing consistently over the 20-metre mark. She says she's motivated to improve her PB of 21.24m and most heartening of all, she appears to be thriving under the mentorship of Swiss coaching legend Jean-Pierre Egger with whom she has developed a close friendship. While her mind, and body, stay willing, there's no sign of one of the most dominant streaks in all of sport coming to an end any time soon.

Achievements: The queen of Kiwi sport was once again unbeaten for 2013, adding her fourth straight world championship crown and extending her winning streak to 42 international events, over three years.

2014: A hat-trick of Commonwealth Games gold medals surely awaits, and all eyes will be on the streak and whether one of her rivals can find the distance to challenge the dominant Kiwi. MARC HINTON

STEVEN ADAMS

Sean Marks paved the way, but it's the Rotorua-born, Wellington-schooled Adams who's proving an inspiration to a generation of Kiwi hoops wannabes with his exploits for the Thunder through the first part of the 2013-14 season. The kid has surpassed all expectations through the first quarter of the season. After an impressive summer and pre-season, Adams became coach Scott Brooks' backup centre and has thrived in his role as the first big man off the bench. His stats don't reflect his impact - 4.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks in just over 17 minutes through the first 16 games. What the towering Kiwi has shown is good instincts for the game, excellent athleticism and a willingness to play within his range of skills. He sets great screens, crashes the boards like a demon, runs the court well, protects the rim and is more than happy to leave the shooting to the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It doesn't hurt either that he's fast become known as a quirky and likeable character around the NBA. Word is the Thunder superstars have been won over by his Kiwi charm and veteran Derek Fisher has taken the rookie - the youngest of an extended clan that includes shot put queen Val - under his wing to fast-track his NBA education. A couple of years ago Adams was hitting the gym at Kenny McFadden's hoops academy in Wellington. Now he's a leading figure in one of the best teams in the NBA. If that doesn't inspire a generation of Kiwi hoops hopefuls, nothing will.

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Achievements: The first Kiwi picked in the first round of the NBA draft Adams was tipped to be a development project in his rookie season. But the 2.13m centre has surpassed expectations by forcing his way into Scott Brooks' main rotation.

2014: It's all about adding to his game now. As he gathers experience and confidence, there's serious upside to tap. MARC HINTON

SCOTT DIXON

The  proud New Zealand driver left it late to sew up his third IndyCar title, adding to the drama of a year-long battle with Helio Castroneves. Dixon made a solid start to his campaign when he finished fifth and second in the opening two meetings. But it looked like he'd blown that when he finished well outside the top 10 in six of the subsequent nine races. Then the 33-year-old found his speed and form in spectacular fashion. A hat-trick of midseason wins, including sweeping the double-header at Toronto suddenly had Dixon right on the tail of series leader Castroneves. An aggressive Dixon revelled in the situation, holding his nerve to pour on the pressure while Castroneves started to falter with the Kiwi in his rear-vision mirror. Dixon again showed his liking for the pressures of a doubleheader weekend by blasting to a win and second at Houston where the Brazilian faltered with gearbox troubles. That saw Dixon top the table with just the last race in Fontana, California, to drive. A fifth there was good enough for Dixon to claim the driver's title, despite Castroneves using team tactics against him. It was a hectic season featuring four first-time winners and 10 different drivers draped in chequered flags. But Dixon's consistency reigned supreme. This latest title, that came with a $1.2m bonus, maintained Dixon's five-year sequence of successes after glory in 2003 and 2008 and consolidated his place among the greats in a sport where New Zealand has a rich history of driving talent.

Achievements: 2013 champion, his third title. Four wins in 19 starts, including 10 top-five finishes. Took career tally to 33 wins.

2014: The flying Kiwi is so comfortable in his team and surroundings, you wouldn't bet against a fourth title. A second Indy 500 would be his dream result. DUNCAN JOHNSTONE

LYDIA KO

In New Zealand golfing circles this year, only one question has mattered: when will Lydia Ko go pro? If you're not a golfer, it seems a question loaded with far too much pressure for a quietly spoken 16-year-old North Shore girl. But scratch the surface of Ko's golfing career and the query seems well overdue an answer - especially considering what she did last year as an amateur. At 14 last January, she was youngest person to win a pro golf tour, the Women's New South Wales Open. Turning 15, she became the youngest woman to win an LPGA tour event, the CN Canadian Women's Open, last August. This year, the former US amateur champion has stepped things up. After winning the New Zealand Women's Open at Clearwater, Ko has completed a full year on the LPGA tour, largely as an amateur. The big results came in the defence of her Canadian crown in Edmonton, before finishing second to Suzann Pettersen at the Evian Championship in France. Ko soared to fifth in world rankings before her unorthodox announcement to go pro in a YouTube video co-starring All Black Israel Dagg. In her first event as a pro in Florida, she came 21st. But no matter - Ko, named alongside Kiwi pop sensation Lorde as one of the most influential teens in the world by Time magazine, has a big 2014 ahead of her.

Achievements: Defending her CN Canadian Open title in Edmonton, Canada, in August, she shot 265 (-15) for a five-shot victory over Karine Icher. Still an amateur, Ko's US$300,000 winner's cheque went to Icher. Turned pro on October 23. Won the New Zealand Women's Open, as an amateur, in February.

2014: Her first full season on the LPGA as a pro begins at the Bahamas LPGA Classic in Bermuda on January 24. She enters her first LPGA major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in California, as a pro on April 4. BEN STANLEY

KIERAN READ

Perhaps the greatest compliment one can pay Kieran Read is it matters not which jersey he pulls on. The same peerless performances are maintained. The Crusaders and All Blacks benefit equally from his dedication. In such a gruelling industry, no more could be asked. This rare consistency is no mean feat for a bloke who, in Richie McCaw's frequent absence, played almost every minute of every match this year. Through the 14-test unbeaten campaign not once was Read replaced, only sitting out the training run in Tokyo. Six times he was captain - against France, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. His 50 metre burst from under the sticks in his 50th test in Christchurch remains prominent. Any wonder he is close to the most influential player in New Zealand, if not world, rugby. In the perfect season Read near perfected his game. Already a key figure in the lineout, a physically bruising presence in defence, it was special moments of subtle finesse usually reserved for backs that were most memorable. Consider this: Read scored just one less test try (6) than prolific wing Julian Savea and was third to lethal finisher Ben Smith. Not bad for a No 8. Read might also expect a Christmas card from Savea and Smith. The Johannesburg epic was just one occasion he laid on an assist for his outsides. Above all else, though, it was impossible not to marvel at his ability to roam wide, draw and pass with precision and offload in the tackle. The only thing we didn't see was him kick a goal.

Achievements: IRB & New Zealand player of the year, member of first rugby team to go a test season in the professional era without dropping a match.

2014: More of the same, please. Only injury will prevent Read from reasserting his global dominance. He's not the sort of bloke to rest or be satisfied with past deeds. Expect him to be near, if not again, head of the pack next year. LIAM NAPIER

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS

Arguably the most polarising figure in New Zealand sport, Williams - league star, boxing wannabe and rugby player extraordinaire - has as many detractors as he does fans. But after being crowned the international player of the year at the Rugby League International Federation's recent awards, Williams' Kiwis team-mates unleashed an impromptu haka in his honour. Clearly, those who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him on the field - and see what he does off it - are big fans. And based on the way he played for the Roosters this year, it's easy to see why. After signing a one-year deal to return to the NRL five years after walking out on the Bulldogs, Williams was under immense pressure to deliver. But, as they say, cream always rises to the top and it was no surprise when the Roosters, who a year earlier had finished in 13th place, went on to win the title. After the grand final, there were whispers he would return to rugby. He also initially made himself unavailable for the Kiwis' World Cup squad before changing his mind. His and New Zealand's gain was Melbourne Storm youngster Tohu Harris' loss. But despite his best efforts, the Kiwis still weren't good enough to retain their title against an incredible Australian side in the final. For Williams and his team-mates, the year was to end on a sour note. But looking back on the season, there's little to be disappointed about. League's wunderkind is back.

Achievements: Helped the Roosters win the NRL title for the first time since 2002. Was also named league's international player of the year.

2014: After being stripped of his boxing titles due to his absence from the ring, Williams will be back in action for the Roosters. They should go close to winning the big shebang again. After that, it will be back to rugby in time for the next World Cup. AARON LAWTON

- © Fairfax NZ News

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