Our top ten sports stars

Settling on the top 10 New Zealand sporting performers of the year provoked a range of candidates.

A poll among Herald sports staff produced 31 nominees from 17 sports.

Only three received 100 per cent selection from the nine judges - Olympic champions Sarah Ulmer, Hamish Carter and Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell.

Next best were the Black Sox for their world softball championship triumph with eight votes.

The final spot went to world scratch cycling champion Greg Henderson, who won a tiebreak with world bowls pairs champions Sharon Sims and Jo Edwards and All Black Richie McCaw.

The top 10, with votes out of nine in brackets:

SARAH ULMER (9)


Winning the Olympic gold in the women's individual pursuit capped a near-perfect year for the 28-year-old. Already with a slew of Commonwealth Games titles, Ulmer set a record in winning the world championships in Melbourne in May.

She then beat that time twice to triumph in Athens, smashing her qualifying time with a sizzling 3m 24s in the final, almost 2s quicker than she has ever ridden.

HAMISH CARTER (9)


Twenty minutes before reaching the final line at Athens, New Zealand were all but guaranteed two of the three medals in the men's triathlon.

Carter got the gold, heading home compatriot Bevan Docherty in an emotional final kilometre.

Four years ago, by his own admission, he had blown his chances at the Sydney Olympics. This time, on a searing morning in Athens, he made no mistake.

At 33, it will be his last Olympics, and it was the perfect finale.

GEORGINA AND CAROLINE EVERS-SWINDELL (9)


The Cambridge-based twins were in the unusual position for New Zealand athletes of arriving at an Olympics dead-set favourites for gold.

So it proved in their double scull discipline, although it was a tighter finish than they would have liked, heading home the German pair by less than a second.

Unbeaten since the 2001 world championships, they reigned supreme this year.

BLACK SOX (8)


The Black Sox won the world men's softball title for the third successive time in February. It was the first big New Zealand success of the year, and it happened on home soil, in Christchurch. And all three wins were masterminded by coach Don Tricker.

In the final, they beat Canada 9-5, and among the heroes was Mark Sorenson, who had come out of retirement for the championships. He clubbed a home run in the final to cement his place as perhaps New Zealand's finest ever player.

It was a triumph for team spirit in a sport which does not luxuriate in truckloads of money but succeeds through strength of personality and sheer will to win.

BEVAN DOCHERTY (7)


Had it not been for the presence of Hamish Carter, Taupo-based Docherty would have been standing tall as the single dominant figure in triathlon.

He won the world championships title at Madeira in May, won his first World Cup race in Japan in April after a cluster of seconds, was world No 1 for a time, and the only athlete ahead of him in the Olympic race was Carter.

Docherty, 27, looks certain to be among the sport's elite for the next few years. It won't surprise if he goes one better in Beijing in 2008.

ALI FORSYTH (5)


It was a red-letter year for New Zealand bowls. Jo Edwards and Sharon Sims won the women's pairs gold medal at the world championships in Britain in September, then last month Nelson 24-year-old Forsyth stunned the sport by winning the Champion of Champions singles title in Warilla, Australia.

Forsyth won all 13 of his games en route to the final where he beat Scotsman David Anderson.

The next aim for the fishing company worker is the national championships in Auckland starting on December 29. He is aiming to win the singles crown for the third successive time. Only the legendary Phil Skoglund has managed that.

BEN FOUHY (5)


Fouhy, having won the world K1 1000m crown in 2003, arrived in Athens among the Olympic gold medal contenders. He finished with the silver medal, beaten by a flying Norwegian, Eirik Veraas Larsen, despite putting in a late surge.

It had been an awkward build-up for the 25-year-old, who received uncomplimentary text messages from a disgruntled former national squad member in the days before his final.

An hour after that race, Fouhy and Steven Ferguson were in the K2 1000m.

However, they were off the pace, trailing all but one pair home to finish eighth.

STEPHEN FLEMING (4)


New Zealand's cricket captain became the country's top test runmaker this year, with 5663, going past Martin Crowe, and has played more tests, 89, than any other New Zealander, overtaking Sir Richard Hadlee's 86.

He led New Zealand to victory in the NatWest series in England, and steered the Black Caps to 18 wins in 22 one-day internationals, keeping their position among the top three ODI sides in the game.

Fleming hit two test hundreds this year, 117 against England at Nottingham and his career-best 202 against Bangladesh at Chittagong. He is the longest-serving test captain in the game with 65 appearances as skipper.

BEN TOWNLEY (4)


The Taupo teenager won the world MX2 class this year for 250cc bikes.

He won 21 races, nine grand prix titles and the Dutch national championship crown to clinch the championship by over 100 points.

Next year he will move up to the premier MX1 class, and that will give New Zealand fans double delight as he will square off against fellow Kiwi Josh Coppins, who finished third in the championship this year.

GREG HENDERSON (3)


Sarah Ulmer was not the only New Zealander to stand top of the world at May's world track cycling championships.

Just minutes after Ulmer's ride to glory, Otago's Greg Henderson pulled off a surprise by winning the men's scratch race, a non-Olympic event, but still an outstanding achievement.

The 28-year-old won by a mere half wheel from Dutchman Robert Slippens in the 15km race.

Ulmer and Henderson are making a habit of this: two years ago they won gold within minutes of each other at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

On that occasion Henderson took out the points race.

AND THE OTHERS


The other sportsmen, women and teams to receive votes were, in no particular order: the All Blacks, Bay of Plenty (rugby), Cameron Brown (ironman), Daniel Carter (rugby), the Chiefs (rugby), Grant Dalton (yachting), Irene van Dyk (netball), Dean Kent (swimming), Richie McCaw (rugby), Vanessa Quin (mountain biking), Paul Rauhihi (league), Hayden Shaw (hockey), Sevens team (rugby), Sims and Edwards (bowls) , Corney Swanepoel (swimming), Don Tricker (softball), Sonny Bill Williams (league) and Jonathan Wyatt (mountain running).

Votes were also cast for retired cyclist Stephen Swart for his role in unveiling alleged doping offences by Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and Grant Kereama, who donated a kidney to All Black Jonah Lomu.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 17 Sep 2014 17:04:06 Processing Time: 665ms