Richie McCaw and the All Blacks will be the first topic of discussion with most New Zealand males at least and rightly so, what an incredible performance for McCaw to Captain the All Blacks in 100 Tests and have such an impressive winning percentage. However rugby suffers from being a team sport without the plethora of stats that many other sports can produce to back up cases in subjects like this.
The Commonwealth Games athletes, Cyclists and Rowers did do very well as usual and the ladies hockey team, softballers doing well again, the women’s football team with their steadily improving performances are all very creditable performances. Swimmers are also producing some good performances and Valerie Adams being the best Shot Putter in the world again (a huge number of events without being beaten legally) which unfortunately is a sport that is limited to but a few. Her achievement of being the best athlete in the world appears a reward for dominating an event for many years rather than an extraordinary year as her year is much the same as most other years she has had.
We are also encouraged by a seemingly never ending promotional effort from NZ Cricket to believe that Brendon McCullum’s should be the New Zealander of the Year, Sportsperson of the Year and whatever else they can think of claiming he is misunderstood and is really a very nice person. They seem to be forgetting the New Zealand sporting public will never forget what was done to Ross Taylor and that he has an injunction stopping some information reaching the public domain. There is no doubt his performances have been extremely good in 2014, to have two double hundreds and a triple hundred is incredible although many question the circumstances in which he made his last double hundred as the Pakistani’s at best seemed confused about how they should act after the death of Philip Hughes. Before that double hundred NZ Cricket chose Ross Taylor as their top cricketers for the year so all this cricket thing is a bit confusing really.
However my selection is none of those, for me one person stood out and in a sport that is played over four days of most weeks of the year and by most of the countries in the world and is available to most people both male and female.
Lydia Ko for me has had an incredible year and has performed on a weekly basis to a level where she is the third top ranked player in the world in her first year of being a professional, the top money earner and winner of the season ending ‘Championship’ Tournament on the US Ladies Tour – all as a 17 year old. The performance of a golfer is recorded stroke by stroke and you can’t be in the top 3 or the top Money Winner if you are not consistent or at worst have a very hot streak for a few weeks, which is harder to achieve in women’s golf due to the fact that they play for less money.
About two years ago I and a colleague met with Lydia, her mother and her then coach and we discussed how she might gain financial support as she was at the time an amateur needing to tour the world. We chatted about targeting a few people who might be supportive but said in the end the best way to get funds was to play well. Money is now a problem she should not have and I would think that discussion that led her nowhere is but a distant recollection of a wasted trip to Hamilton!
She does appear to be an exceptional athlete and person and it will be interesting to watch how she reacts to this early success as the temptations are to believe that to get better she has to radically change what has got her this far.
An incredible performance and a delightfully innocent young person.
For me Lydia Ko is the Ohaupo Community News New Zealand Sportsperson of the Year with the only question being how many more might she win?