Teen golfing sensation Lydia Ko appears ready to break Val Adams' stranglehold on the New Zealand sportswoman of the year award.
The nominations for the Halberg Awards were released today with the women's category looking far more competitive than in recent years with world and Olympic shot put champion Adams winning the last seven awards.
Ko missed out to Adams last year and ended up being handed the consolation prize of "emerging talent", a strange decision given she had well and truly emerged to be a force on the international stage.
She has pushed on this year, winning three international titles, including this week's breakthrough victory at the $US1m Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters tournament in Taiwan where she won in just her second start as a professional. She is currently ranked No 4 in the world.
Adams continues to be the best in her sport, claiming another world title, though her sport hardly compares to Ko's in terms of numbers or competitiveness.
Throw in world champion kayaker Lisa Carrington and stellar swimmer Lauren Boyle and the women's category looks to be a tough call for the judges.
They will shortlist the nominations to finalists on January 1 and then announce the winner on February 13.
The men's category meanwhile could start a landslide for the All Blacks.
Kieran Read, clearly the world's best rugby player at the moment after cleaning up the sport's global awards, is one of six finalists, including IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and top three-day eventer Andrew Nicholson. World champion cyclist Aaron Gate is also in the mix after claiming the difficult omnium event.
A notable absentee is basketballer Steve Adams, judged the 12th best pick in this year's NBA draft and making a major impact with the Oklahoma Thunder.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is in the coach of the year mix and his unbeaten side are in the teams category.
The team title will be tough featuring world champion rowers, sailors and men's softballers, as well as the worthy claims of the New Zealand Breakers who claimed their third consecutive Australian NBL title.
The winners of the Sportsman, Sportswoman, Disabled Sportsperson and Team of the Year Award categories will again be eligible for the country's supreme accolade for sporting excellence - the Halberg Award.
Nominations for the 51st Halberg Awards:
High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportsman of the Year: Aaron Gate (Cycling), Andrew Nicholson (Equestrian), Kieran Read (Rugby), Mitch Evans (Motorsport), Scott Dixon (Motorsport), Simon van Velthooven (Cycling).
High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year: Emma Twigg (Rowing), Lauren Boyle (Swimming), Linda Villumsen (Cycling), Lisa Carrington (Canoeing), Lydia Ko (Golf), Melissa Timperley (Taekwon-Do), Suzie Bates (Cricket), Valerie Adams (Athletics).
Disabled Sportsperson of the Year: Cameron Leslie (Para Swimming), Carl Murphy (Para-Snowboarding), David Monk (Blind Bowling), Emma Foy and Gabrielle Vermunt (pilot) (Para Cycling), James Dunn (Blind Bowling), Mary Fisher (Para Swimming), Mike Johnson (Para Shooting), Mixed Pairs - Sue Curran and James Dunn (Blind Bowling), Nikita Howarth (Para Swimming), Sophie Pascoe (Para Swimming), Sue Curran (Blind Bowling), Team New Zealand Class B2 (Para Sailing), Team New Zealand Class B3 (Para Sailing).
Team of the Year: All Blacks (Rugby), Black Sox (Softball), Emirates Team New Zealand (Yachting), Men's Pair - Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (Rowing), Men's Lightweight Four (Rowing), Men's Team Sprint (Cycling), NZL Sailing Team with ETNZ (Yachting), NZ Men's 49er Class Team - Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (Yaching), NZ Women's 49erFX Pair - Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech (Yachting), NZ Women's 470 Team - Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (Yachting), The New Zealand Breakers (Basketball), Women's Pair - Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt (Rowing), Women's Double Scull - Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke (Rowing).
Emerging Talent: Ella Williams (Surfing), Gabrielle Fa'amausili (Swimming), Hannah Sarten (BMX), Jake Lewis (Motorcycling), Liam Aitcheson (Track Cycling), Makauley Fox (Baseball), Sam Gaze (Mountain Biking), Tim Robertson (Orienteering), Tom Murray (Rowing).
Coach of the Year: Dave Thompson (Rowing), Dick Tonks (Rowing), Eddie Kohlhase (Softball), Gary Hay (Rowing), Gordon Walker (Canoeing), Guy Wilson (Golf), Nathan Handley (Yachting), Simon Finnel (Cycling), Steve Hansen (Rugby).
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