Golfing prodigy reigns supreme at Halbergs
Teenage golfer Lydia Ko and the All Blacks dominated the Halberg Awards in Auckland last night.
Ko, 16, who was missing from the ceremony because she is competing in the Australian Open in Melbourne, was crowned sportswoman of the year and took the overall award ahead of fellow supreme award finalists Scott Dixon, Sophie Pascoe and the All Blacks.
The judging academy of 30 panelists deemed Ko sportswoman of the year ahead of Valerie Adams, Lisa Carrington and Lauren Boyle - with the result the first time since 2005 that Adams, who was unbeaten all season on the international athletics circuit and made history by becoming the first female athlete to win four world championship titles, has not won top female honours.
Ko, who achieved a runner-up finish in a major championship last year and won three professional events, received news of her success via video link.
"A lot of things have happened over the past year. I'm so proud of myself and I just couldn't be here without my support crew behind me," Ko said.
"I'm at the start of my career, a rookie on the LPGA Tour and hopefully I've got a lot of years to go.
"I'm just going to enjoy the moment and go out there and have lots of fun."
Elsewhere, it was also a big night for the All Blacks. Capping a perfect 2013 - becoming the first team in the professional era of rugby to win every game in a season - the men in black walked away with team of the year honours, while Steve Hansen won coach of the year and captain Richie McCaw was honoured with a leadership award.
Hansen said the team of the year award was particularly pleasing for his group.
"This is probably the best one we can go away with," Hansen said. "It reflects what we are as a team and we've got some special individuals. But, we see ourselves as a family and it's a team that plays for each other. It means a lot."
McCaw, who said his leadership award "sits right up there" pointed to the All Blacks' final game of last season, when they produced a late, late win against Ireland to complete the perfect season as a measure of his team.
"Twenty seconds to go in the last test against Ireland, those are the occasions where you really see what you have as a team."
The All Blacks' sportsman of the year finalist Kieran Read was unsuccessful however, beaten to the gong by Scott Dixon.
Dixon, who was IndyCar champion for a third time in his career last year, got the nod ahead of Read, world No 1 eventing champion Andrew Nicholson and track cycling world champion Aaron Gate, but was also absent because of pre-season testing.
Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe was again named disabled sportsperson of the year, after securing five gold medals at the IPC world championships, ahead of fellow swimming world champion Mary Fisher, blind bowling world champion David Monk and shooting world record holder Mike Johnson.
Pascoe took the opportunity to urge the Halberg Trust to reconsider the specialist disabled category.
"I'd like to obviously see this award go back into the sportsman and sportswoman categories," Pascoe said. "At this stage it's not going to happen overnight, but it will happen.
"I have the ambition to change things outside the pool too. It's going to take time and it's going to take a lot of support," she said. "But it will happen."
Fourteen-year-old swimmer Gabrielle Fa'amausili received the emerging talent award and - which comes with a $10,000 scholarship - ahead of surfer Ella Williams, rower Tom Murray and motorcyclist Jake Lewis.
During the awards ceremony former All Black Jonah Lomu and Olympic champion cyclist Sarah Ulmer were also inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.
Graham Sycamore, of Invercargill, was recognised with a lifetime achievement award for more than 50 years of service to cycling. The Southerner has been involved as a competitor, administration and official, having adjudicated at six world championships, seven Commonwealth Games and three Olympic Games.
Halberg Awards 2013
Supreme award: Lydia Ko
Sportswoman of the year: Lydia Ko
Sportsman of the year: Scott Dixon
Disabled sportsperson of the year: Sophie Pascoe
Team of the year: All Blacks
Coach of the year: Steve Hansen
Leadership award: Richie McCaw
Hall of Fame inductees: Sarah Ulmer and Jonah Lomu
Lifetime achievement: Graham Sycamore