Lydia Ko is NZ's premier sportswoman in 2013

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2013
Lydia Ko
Getty Images
ON TARGET: Lydia Ko speaks at a press conference at the World Ladies Masters tournament in Taipei City.

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OPINION: If the criteria were performance and performance only, woman of the year would be Valerie Adams - and it's on those grounds that Adams should receive upcoming Halberg honours way ahead of Ko.

The reason Lydia Ko gets this particular nod is for intangible, philosophical reasons: What she did off the golf course this year, the impact it will have on her long-term future and what it means for a younger generation of New Zealanders.

With the eyes of the sporting world upon her, Ko has executed the most difficult stage of her career with absolute aplomb and, incredibly, without any professional management.

Not bad for a 16-year-old schoolgirl.

Finally answering the recurring question of when she would turn professional with a polished and whimsical video shot with All Blacks friend Israel Dagg, the non-traditional announcement went viral and dawned a watershed moment in the relationship between sport, media and the public.

Under severe global scrutiny, Ko has continued to endear herself to the public, both domestically and internationally, and in the eyes of non-golfers has single-handedly raised the profile of an entire Kiwi sport that's had nine years in the doldrums - and still a long way from the high of Michael Campbell withstanding a charge from Tiger Woods to win the 2005 US Open.

With modesty and composure well beyond her teenage years, this year for Ko was all about teeing up what promises to be a spectacular career. And she's done it brilliantly. Neither has she been instantly lured into signing big-money endorsements, as would be so easy to do, but rather she's taken things slowly and steadily. Her handling of a supremely difficult situation has been flawless.

Helping her cause, Ko has already recorded her first professional win, a matter of days after turning pro; defended her Canadian Open title and finished runner-up in a major championship.

While Ko's achievements are impressive, they're nowhere near Adams' shot put feats of 2013.

New Zealand's Olympics queen not only claimed her pinnacle event of the year (something Ko had five shots at in 2013) but she became the first woman to win four straight world titles in her field.

Unbeaten through the entire season, Adams swept the Diamond League circuit yet again and her tally now stands at 42 consecutive wins.

And, this year, she did it all through two injuries which required surgery in the off-season.

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Also worthy of mention are swimmer Lauren Boyle, who in another stellar year not only became the first Kiwi swimmer to win a medal at a world long-course championship in 19 years but claimed three bronze medals.

Olympic champion kayaker Lisa Carrington also played an important part of female Kiwi athletes on the world stage in 2013, winning world titles in her favoured K1 200m and also branching out to be K1 500m world champion.

- Sunday Star Times

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