Olympic, World and Commonwealth shot put champion Valerie Vili is zeroing in on a three-peat after predictably being named among the finalists for New Zealand sport's 2009 Halberg Awards.
Sportswoman of the year and the supreme award winner in 2007-08 Vili, who defended her world crown in Berlin in August, will become only the second athlete to win three successive supreme awards if she is crowned on February 4 in Auckland.
Rower Rob Waddell is the only athlete to win three consecutive supreme awards in 1998-2000.
Vili's coach Kirsten Hellier is also in contention to win three successive coach of the year titles, though she faces tough competition from Ricki Herbert, coach of the World Cup-bound All Whites.
New Zealand's soccer team appear favourites for the team of the year award ahead of women's 420 sailing world champions Alexandra Maloney and Bianca Barbarich-Bacher, gold medal-winning world championship rowing crews Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (pair) and lightweight double scullers Storm Uru and Peter Taylor.
Rowing dominates the finalists with five nominations -- world championship gold medallists Mahe Drysdale (single sculls), Duncan Grant (lightweight sculls) and coach Richard Tonks are also recognised.
Drysdale, a beaten finalist when motor racer Scott Dixon won the sportsman of the year award last year, is seeking to regain the crown he last held in 2007.
Dixon, now the most successful driver in Indy Racing League history, has the opportunity to defend his title. The other contenders are Grant, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and cricket equivalent Daniel Vettori.
Vili, unbeaten in all competitions last year, is joined by three other world champions -- the cycling duo of Alison Shanks (individual pursuit) and Sarah Walker (BMX Olympic class) plus swimmer Sophie Pascoe, winner of four gold medals in world record time at the 2009 Paralympic swimming championships.
There are four finalists in the emerging talent category which carries a $15,000 scholarship: cyclist Sam Webster, Aaron Cruden (rugby), Robbie Manson (rowing) and sailor Sam Meech.
Voting for the awards is carried out by a Voting Academy comprising 29 media representatives, coaches and athletes who have excelled at the highest level.
Sportsman of the Year:
Scott Dixon (motor sport), Mahe Drysdale (rowing), Duncan Grant (rowing), Richie McCaw (rugby), Daniel Vettori (cricket)
Sportswoman of the Year:
Sophie Pascoe (swimming), Alison Shanks (cycling), Valerie Vili (athletics), Sarah Walker (BMX cycling)
Sports Team of the Year:
All Whites (football), men's pair (rowing), men's lightweight double scull (rowing), women's 420 (sailing)
Coach of the Year:
Richard Tonks (rowing), Tim Carswell (cycling), Ricki Herbert (soccer), Kirsten Hellier (athletics)
The supreme trophy, the Halberg Award, will be chosen from one of the above.