All power to Pascoe

GOLDEN GIRL: Sophie Pascoe displays her haul of medals from the Paralympic Games in London.
GOLDEN GIRL: Sophie Pascoe displays her haul of medals from the Paralympic Games in London.

Paralympic sports have achieved mainstream acceptance with swim queen Sophie Pascoe beating a record-breaking All Blacks captain to win the Sir Richard Hadlee Sport Canterbury sportsperson of the year award.

The 19-year-old, who grabbed six gold medals at the London Paralympics to add to her four from Beijing, scooped the sportswoman of the year and sportsperson with a disability categories at last night's function in the CBS Canterbury Arena.

McCaw, the 2011 winner after leading the All Blacks to the World Cup, had an even better year personally in 2012 after captaining the All Blacks to an unbeaten season and becoming the first New Zealander to play in 100 winning tests.

But the man ranked this week as most people's choice as the greatest All Black of all-time still couldn't pip Pascoe - and rightly so.

The charismatic former Lincoln High School student now has a wall full of awards. She became the first sportsperson with a disability to win the Sir Richard Hadlee Trust supreme award in 2009, annexing an unprecedented four categories after her Beijing Paralympics success.

The Hadlee Trust awards merged with the Sport Canterbury awards last year and Pascoe's name now follows McCaw's on the treasured trophy.

''She's just emerged as a superstar,'' said Sport Canterbury judging panel convenor John Campbell. ''Over a period of time, she's matured incredibly, not only matured but progressed in her relationship with her trainer.''
Campbell, who oversees the judging but does not vote, said he could not fault the panel's decision to plump for Pascoe and was confident she would also be the people's choice. ''Not that we are particularly influenced by it, but there's a huge amount of public support out there for Sophie.''

Pascoe's award caps a stellar year for the disabled sports community with unprecedented interest in and admiration for the athletes competing at the London Paralympics despite a dearth of free-to-air television coverage in New Zealand.

However, Pascoe has long enjoyed reverence and respect in the sports industry. When Sports Minister Murray McCully unveiled plans for a new High Performance Sport New Zealand facility at Christchurch's Jellie Park last month, Pascoe was the athlete invited to express her support for the project.

Behind every great athlete is an equally excellent coach and Pascoe's mentor, Roly Crichton was also honoured last night, winning the coach of the year award.
McCaw did not go home empty-handed, taking the sportsperson of the year prize for the second year.

The Canterbury Cats women's hockey squad won the team of the year after clinching their first national title in a decade.

North Canterbury's Anton Cooper won the young  sportsman title after his gold medal at the world junior mountain biking championships in Austria.  Rising swimming star Sophie Batchelor was adjudged young sportswoman of the year.

Fairfax Media