Glory days of New Zealand sport in 2012

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 01/01/2013
Sophie Pascoe
FAIRFAX
MEDALS APLENTY: Christchurch Paralympian Sophie Pascoe scooped the pool at London with three golds and three silvers.

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Opinion

Plumb: Sky's loss is Coliseum's gain, again Springboks to muscle up and bash All Blacks Reason: G-Mac's inspiration deflates Americans Johnstone: Williams must hang up his gloves Mehrtens: Give back-up midfield pair a try Goile: ITM Cup format needs to change Lions could end bleak season with shield joy Wilson: Firm Hansen delivers on hard decisions Reason: Crass nationalism has no place at RWC Kemp: League is over-ruled and needs fixing up

OPINION: The winners and losers of New Zealand sport in 2012:

SPORTSMAN:

WINNER: MAHE DRYSDALE. His single sculls victory at the London Olympic Games was a magic moment for those who witnessed his woes at Beijing when sickness scuppered his gold medal dream. RUNNER-UP: All Blacks captain Richie McCaw who reinvented himself as the best flanker in the world after ankle surgery.

SPORTSWOMAN:

WINNER: Olympic kayaking gold medallist LISA CARRINGTON. New Zealand sport has another personable, humble female champion in the Sarah Ulmer mould. FINALISTS: Swimmer Sophie Pascoe, who won three gold and three silver medals at the London Paralympics. Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old amateur golfer who won two titles on the world pro circuit. Valerie Adams, the double Olympic shot put champion. More depth here than the sportsman category.

TEAM:

WINNER: Olympic champions ERIC MURRAY and HAMISH BOND. Their four-year winning streak in the men's pair earned them a gold medal in London. FINALISTS: The New Zealand surf life saving world champions, the New Zealand Breakers after retaining their Australian National Basketball League crown, and Olympic gold medallists Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen (rowing) and Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (yachting).

COACH: Forgive my Olympic bias, but how can you overlook rowing guru DICK TONKS, mentor to Murray and Bond and Drysdale, who has now coached gold medallists at four consecutive Olympiads. Murray said: "He makes it quite clear that you do what he says, otherwise you bugger off." RUNNER-UP: Dave Rennie, who led the Chiefs to their first Super Rugby title in his first season.

RISING STAR: Lydia Ko. How will Ko go when she goes pro?

OUR FINEST HOUR: Forty-five minutes to be precise - the gap between Murray and Bond's and Drysdale's gold medals at Eton Dorney, as fine a stretch of water to Kiwi eyes as Kaiteriteri Beach. The best quinella since Peter Snell and Murray Halberg won track medals at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

BEST EVENT:

WINNER: The OLYMPIC GAMES is still the best sporting event on the planet, trumping even football's World Cup and cycling's Tour de France. London 2012 was the best of the best, from the quality sport to the knowledgeable crowds and the unfailingly friendly Londoners. Runner-up: The Paralympics. Same sports, same city, same support . . . 2012 will go down as the year the Paralympics went mainstream for New Zealand sports fans.

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MOST TELLING QUOTE: "I would prefer to keep silent on this performance, if you understand me." Valerie Adams' coach Jean-Pierre Egger after Belarusia's later defrocked Olympic champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk "beat" Adams in the Olympic Games shot put final.

MARKING TIME: How long will RICKI HERBERT'S grip on New Zealand football's two top coaching gigs - the All Whites and the Wellington Phoenix - continue? Phoenix board member Gareth Morgan may know squat about soccer but even he can see the Nix are not playing a crowd-pulling brand.

DAFT DECISIONS

The finalists:

NEW ZEALAND CRICKET whose treatment of captain Ross Taylor was straight from Scrooge's Christmas grinch manual - and its timing was lousy. Taylor had just led the Black Caps to a rare test victory in Sri Lanka and scored a ton.

NEW ZEALAND CRICKET again for appointing a boy (Mike Hesson) to a man's (John Wright) job.

THE WARRIORS who sacked coach Bluey McClennan with two games to go in the season. They should have sheathed the axe till the off-season or been brave enough to make a call before the rot set in.

THE NEW ZEALAND RUGBY AWARDS panel's call to make the All Blacks team of the year ahead of the Super 15-winning Chiefs and five-time national champions Canterbury, and go for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as top coach ahead of Dave Rennie. Star-kissers.

DAVID TUA'S contemplation of a comeback. Tua's career as a credible boxer ended in Las Vegas when he went through the motions against Lennox Lewis, the last great world heavyweight champion.

THE NEW ZEALAND RUGBY UNION: It's one thing selling the All Blacks' shirt fronts to the highest bidder but it's another getting into bed with a disgraced American insurance company.

THE HALBERG AWARDS panel for failing to include Sophie Pascoe in the Sportswoman of the Year category.

AND THE WINNER: New Zealand Cricket for the ham-handed way it turfed out Taylor.

STORM IN A TEA CUP: Athletics officials' failure to register Valerie Adams for the Olympic Games shot put. We all got in a lather but the IOC was never likely to disqualify the reigning Olympic champion and the event's only drawcard.

SIR ROB MULDOON MEMORIAL AWARD FOR BRAZEN CHEEK: Disgraced drug user Nadzeya Ostapchuk's joyous "victory" lap at the London Olympic track and field stadium after cheating Valerie Adams out of a gold medal on the night.

- The Press

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