Halberg judges miss chance to crown new queen

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 07:57 15/02/2013
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray won the Supreme Helberg award and the team of the year.
Lisa Carrington
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
JUST AS GOLDEN: Lisa Carrington.

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OPINION: Kayak queen Lisa Carrington was the hard luck story on a night of winners at the Halberg Awards that represent the very best of New Zealand sporting excellence.

Rowing's monopoly on the event was to be expected.

The rowers provided the foundations for New Zealand's stunning Olympics campaign in 2012, an effort that helped lift New Zealand to giddy heights and, for a fair while over the course of the London event, be the envy of our trans-Tasman rivals Australia.

Rowing has enjoyed something of a monopoly at the Halbergs in recent times, based on true international success but also by operating in a sport that schedules world championships every year.

These Halbergs were always going to be about the Olympics, a four-year sporting pinnacle, and there could be no denying rowing's dominance that culminated in the "team of the year", the perfect pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, going on to win the supreme gong.

But when it came to the hotly contested sportswoman category, the Olympics threw up a worthy alternative in Carrington, the gold medallist in the K1 200m event, kayaking's fast-twitch sprint where split seconds count most.

Heading off fellow gold medallist, shot put champion Valerie Adams, was never going to be easy.

Adams has a mortgage on this title and when the votes were added up, she marched up to collect her seventh consecutive Halberg in this department.

As a nation we love Big Val and her gritty effort in London was one of those bitter-sweet moments after the drama of her rival being busted for doping turned her silver into gold. She had a complete dominance of the Diamond League series to back up her Olympic CV.

But Carrington represented a chance for the Halbergs to justifiably throw up a fresh face. She had lofty claims - a world champion from 2011 who had the pressures of converting that into gold at her first Olympics in an even tougher field and she achieved that with aplomb.

Labelling Carrington a "loser" may seem harsh on a night celebrating champions. But I can't help feel she was hard done by when only one "winner" could be named in her tough category.

It was an opportunity lost by a voting academy who have been guilty of closeted thinking in the past. Believe me, I've been on the academy in years gone by and witnessed first-hand, some of the prejudices, parochialism and muddled arguments that have dominated the discussion table in the lead-up to the private voting process.

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Golfing sensation Lydia Ko, the other worthy contender in this category, might be feeling hard done by too. She operates in a sport where competition and numbers leave shot-putting and kayaking in its shadow.

To hand her the "emerging talent" award seemed a compromise.

That award came a year too late. Ko "emerged" in 2011 when, as a 13-year-old, she won the Australian amateur strokeplay championship along with New Zealand amateur strokeplay and matchplay titles. Last year she was a genuine star in the senior ranks, winning the New South Wales Open and Canadian Open - the youngest to win either - to go with a host of amateur titles. Clearly, she had already "emerged".

But good on the rowers, they deservedly won every category they were nominated for and that even included come-from-behind gold medal terriers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan claiming the feelgood "favourite sporting moment" judged by the public which is a good barometer for the nation's thinking.

I'm just disappointed a young lady who struts her stuff with a paddle on the water couldn't join them on New Zealand sport's biggest stage.

- Stuff

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