Vili continues to dominate Halbergs

Valerie Vili and the Evers-Swindell twins were the big winners. Photos / Getty Images
Valerie Vili and the Evers-Swindell twins were the big winners. Photos / Getty Images

Female athletes were the big winners in Auckland tonight with Valerie Vili capturing New Zealand's ultimate sporting prize, the Halberg Award, for the third consecutive year.

Just for good measure, former Olympic and world rowing champions Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell were crowned sports champions of the decade.

Vili, the 25-year-old world, Olympic, Commonwealth and New Zealand shot put champion, was the dominant individual figure at the annual Halberg Awards dinner.

After repeating her performance of the previous three years by winning the sportswoman of the year category, joining board sailor Barbara Kendall as a four-time winner, Vili went on to claim the supreme award.

In so doing she became only the second person behind champion rower Rob Waddell to complete a hat-trick of Halberg Awards and the first female to capture the big trophy - first won by cricketer Bert Sutcliffe in 1949 - three times.

Other category winners she headed off for the major award were four-time world single scull rowing champion Mahe Drysdale and the world champion rowing pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, who were unbeaten in their first year as a pair at elite level, winners of the sportsman and sports team categories respectively.

The Evers-Swindell twins completed a golden night for rowing when they were announced as the sports champions of the decade - heading off the respective Halberg Award winners from 2000-09, including Vili.

In the end, back-to-back double scull Olympic gold medals by the sisters gave them the edge over the other contenders.

Drysdale and Vili were both unbeaten in international competition in 2009, retained their world championship crowns and were also acclaimed by their international federations with Drysdale voted male rower of the year by world rowing's governing body and Vili one of five finalists for the IAAF 'female athlete of the year' award.

The other finalists in the sportswoman category were also current world champions - Sophie Pascoe (swimming), Alison Shanks (track cycling) and Sarah Walker (BMX cycling).

In the sportsman of the year category, Drysdale headed off Scott Dixon (motor sport), Duncan Grant (rowing), Richie McCaw (rugby) and Daniel Vettori (cricket) while Murray and Bond beat the All Whites soccer team, rowing's lightweight double scull team of Storm Uru and Peter Taylor and the 420 yachting crew of Alexandra Maloney and Bianca Barbarich-Bacher.

Dick Tonks, who coached Drysdale and the men's pair to world championships titles, won the coach of the year category head of Ricki Herbert (soccer), Kirsten Hellier (athletics) and Tim Carswell (cycling).

The emerging talent category, which comes with a $15,000 scholarship, was awarded to Sam Webster, who won an unprecedented hat-trick of titles last year at the under-19 world track cycling championships.

The other finalists were Aaron Cruden (rugby), Sam Meech (sailing) and Robbie Manson (rowing).

Two former New Zealand champions were inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, with athletes Allison Roe, winner of the New York and Boston marathons, and Barry Magee, winner of the Olympic marathon bronze medal in 1960, being presented with their awards by national sporting icons Dame Susan Devoy and Sir John Walker.

Two other special awards were made, with Kenny Smith, who has spent more than 50 years in motor sport, presented with the Lion Foundation lifetime achievement award while long-time cricket administrator Sir John Anderson was presented with the Sparc leadership award.

Award winners and finalists:

Halberg Award: Valerie Vili (athletics).

Finalists: Mahe Drysdale (rowing, sportsman), Vili (athletics, sportswoman), Murray and Hamish Bond (rowing, sports team).

Sports champion of the decade: Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell (rowing).

Other nominees: Rob Waddell (rowing, 2000), Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell (rowing, 2001), Tall Blacks (basketball, 2002), Silver Ferns (netball, 2003), Sarah Ulmer (cycling, 2004), Michael Campbell (golf, 2005), Mahe Drysdale (rowing, 2006), Valerie Vili (athletics, 2007, 2008 and 2009).

Sportsman of the year: Mahe Drysdale (rowing).

Other finalists: Scott Dixon (motor sport), Duncan Grant (rowing), Richie McCaw (rugby), Daniel Vettori (cricket).

Sportswoman of the year: Valerie Vili (athletics).

Other finalists: Sophie Pascoe (swimming), Alison Shanks (cycling), Sarah Walker (BMX cycling).

Sports team of the year: Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (men's pair, rowing)

Other finalists: All Whites (soccer), Storm uru and Peter Taylor (men's double scull, rowing), Alexandra Maloney and Bianca Barbarich-Bacher (women's 420 yachting).

Coach of the year: Richard Tonks (rowing).

Other finalists: Ricki Herbert (soccer), Kirsten Hellier (athletics), Tim Carswell (cycling).

Emerging talent award: Sam Webster (cycling).

Other finalists: Aaron Cruden (rugby), Sam Meech (yachting), Robbie Manson (rowing).

- NZPA

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