7 Jan 2016

Ko a shoo-in for Supreme Halberg?

11:37 am on 7 January 2016

The 24 finalists for the Halberg Awards have been announced with the All Blacks and golfer Lydia Ko headlining the list that celebrates New Zealand sporting excellence.

The New Zealand golfer Lydia Ko.

The New Zealand golfer Lydia Ko. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sixteen of the 24 finalists for 2015 are in contention for the supreme Halberg Award - the country's highest accolade for sport.

The finalists in the Sportsman, Sportswoman, Disabled Sportsperson and Team of the Year categories are all eligible for the top award.

Fifteen different sports feature in the shortlist, with cricket and rugby providing the most finalists with three apiece.

The New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year will again be closely contested with 2014 winner and world number one golfer Lydia Ko shortlisted alongside road cycling world champion Linda Villumsen, swimmer Lauren Boyle, who produced two silver medals at the FINA World Championships, and double world champion canoe sprinter Lisa Carrington.

World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter is a finalist for the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year along with golfer Danny Lee, who won the Greenbrier Classic on the US PGA Tour and was selected for the Presidents Cup Team.

IndyCar Series winner Scott Dixon, who claimed his fourth title on a dramatic last day of racing, and the Black Caps star batsman Kane Williamson, who was named the world number one test batsman in December, also make the shortlist.

Supreme Halberg Award holders Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are in line to defend the top honour again.

The Men's Pair are shortlisted for the Team of the Year against two other world title holders; the All Blacks and Men's 49er sailing crew of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

The Black Caps, the first New Zealand men's team to reach the Cricket World Cup final, round out the category.

Para-Swimmers Nikita Howarth and Sophie Pascoe are up for the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award for their achievements at the IPC Swimming World Championships where Howarth won double gold, and Pascoe claimed three golds, a silver and two bronze medals.

Para-Shooter Michael Johnson, who set a world record and won five world cup gold medals, is a contender along with Para-Skiier Corey Peters who won two golds and a silver at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships.

Four promising athletes have been selected for the Emerging Talent award including pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, who broke a world junior record in December, and double junior world champion track cyclist Campbell Stewart.

Tall Black and New Zealand Breakers development player Tai Wynyard and Dylan Schmidt, who finished tenth at the Trampoline World Championships, are also shortlisted.

The Coach of the Year finalists included the All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Lisa Carrington's coach Gordon Walker.

Hamish Willcox, who steered the Men's 49er team, is a finalist along with the Black Caps coach Mike Hesson.

The finalists were selected by the Halberg Awards judges made up of former athletes, coaches and sports journalists, who reviewed 63 nominations submitted for the six categories.

The winners will be presented at the 53rd Halberg Awards on Thursday, 18 February 2016 at Vector Arena in Auckland.