4 Feb 2009

Part Tongan athlete joins elite club after winning New Zealand's top sports award

5:56 am on 4 February 2009

The Olympic women's shot put champion, Valerie Vili, has captured New Zealand's ultimate sporting prize - the Halberg Award - for the second consecutive year.

The 24-year-old part Tongan athlete emerged as the big winner, repeating her performance of last year by winning the Sportswoman of the Year category and then claiming the supreme Halberg Award.

In so doing Vili became only the third female to capture the big prize in the 60-year history of the awards, first won by cricketer Bert Sutcliffe in 1949.

But Vili who paid respect to the other finalists including rowers Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell says it was pretty tense before the announcement.

"It was a bit nerve wracking and a big surprise to you know, there's lots of talents out there Ever-Swindells total respect for those girls because they're just so they're like the best athletes to hang out with and just great athletes for New Zealand and I take my hat off to them, for what they do."