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Valerie Vili Captures Supreme Halberg Awards Crown

Media Release

19 February 2008

Embargoed until 10:00pm, Tuesday 19 February 2008

Valerie Vili Captures Supreme Crown at 2007 Westpac Halberg Awards

World women’s shot put champion, Valerie Vili, has captured New Zealand’s ultimate sporting prize - the Halberg Award.

The 23-year-old Pakuranga athlete, who couldn’t join the other finalists at the 2007 Westpac Halberg Awards dinner in Christchurch because she was competing in an important IAAF sanctioned world permit meeting at Waitakere Stadium, was the big winner on the night. She won the Westpac Sportswoman of the Year category and then headed off the other category winners, world single scull rowing champion Mahe Drysdale (Sportsman) and the winning coxless four at last year’s World Rowing Championships (Sports Team) to collect the supreme Halberg Award.

For Vili winning, what is now regarded as New Zealand’s premier sporting prize, was the culmination of a fabulous 12 months. As well as winning the shot put at the world championships at Osaka with her final throw of 20.54m, a NZ and Oceania record and a world best for 2007, Valerie also became only the third athlete ever, and the first Kiwi, to win all three World Championship titles (Youth, Junior and Senior). She also became the second New Zealander to win a senior world track and field title, following in the footsteps of Beatrice Faumuina, who won the discus in 1997.

Significantly, Vili also became the first athlete in 10 years since Faumuina in 1997 to win the Halberg Award. Valerie was presented with the silver trophy in an emotional ceremony at Waitakere Stadium by former Halberg winner, Danyon Loader, winner of two swimming gold medals at the 1996 Olympics. The other finalists in the Sportswoman of the Year category were three current world champions - in line speed skater Nicole Begg, BMX cyclist Sarah Walker and motocross rider, Katherine Prumm.

In the Westpac Sportsman of the Year category, won by Drysdale, the other finalists were Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth, lightweight world rowing champion Duncan Grant, and world mountain running champion Jonathan Wyatt. In the other category eligible for the Halberg Award, Westpac Sports Team of the Year, the rowing four were selected by the Voting Academy ahead of Team New Zealand (yachting), the men’s coxless pair (rowing) and the women’s double scull (rowing).

The 2007 Westpac Emerging Talent winner, a category introduced last year which carries a $25,000 scholarship from Westpac, was rower Emma Twigg, who won the world under-23 single scull title. The other finalists were Edward Dawkins (cycling), Danny Lee (golf) and Brendon Hartley (motor sport).

Vili’s coach, Kirsten Hellier, completed a double when she won the SPARC Coach of the Year category. The other finalists in this distinguished group were Calvin Ferguson and Chris Nilsson (rowing) and NZ Sevens coaching guru, Gordon Tietjens.

The 2007 awards marked 45 years since the Halberg Trust took over hosting the event which recognises the outstanding sporting achievements by New Zealand sports men, women and teams over the previous 12 months. One of the Trust’s long-time partners, the Eagles Golfing Society, presented the Trust with a cheque for $161,000, which took their support since 1969 to almost $3.3 million.

In what completed a big year for athletics, two former champion marathon runners, Lorraine Moller and Mike Ryan, were inducted into New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, by athletic great and 1976 Olympic 1500m champion John Walker.

The recipients of two other special awards, which have become regular features at the dinner, were very warmly received. Merv Wallace (91), former Auckland and New Zealand batsman and outstanding cricket coach and mentor for more than 60 years, was presented with the Lion Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. This is a Halberg Trust initiative which recognises those who have made a substantial contribution to sport. In the other presentation, former All Black flanker and outstanding academic, John Graham, for many years one of sport’s great administrators, was honoured with the SPARC Leadership Award.

A highlight of the awards dinner was a very moving tribute to Sir Murray Halberg, who founded the Halberg Trust. Among those who shared their special memories of Sir Murray, were two of his athletic contemporaries Bruce Kidd (Canada) and John Landy (Australia). They were joined by Kiwi athletic greats John Walker, Richard Tayler and Peter Snell (via a recorded message from his home in Dallas), former world women’s squash champion and former Halberg Trust chairperson, Dame Susan Devoy, and Athens gold medallists Sarah Ulmer and Hamish Carter, who were mentored by Sir Murray at the 1996 Olympics.

Voting for the 2007 Westpac Halberg Awards was carried out by an academy of sporting journalists and former sporting greats. The 2007 finalists and winners are listed below:

2007 Halberg Award: Valerie Vili ( athletics)

Mahe Drysdale (Westpac Sportsman of the Year)

Valerie Vili (Westpac Sportswoman of the Year)

Men’s Coxless Four (Westpac Sports Team of the Year)

Westpac Sportsman of the Year: Mahe Drysdale (rowing)

Mahe Drysdale (rowing) Duncan Grant (rowing)

Brad Butterworth (yachting) Jonathan Wyatt (mountain running)

Westpac Sportswoman of the Year: Valerie Vili (athletics)

Valerie Vili (athletics) Sarah Walker (BMX Cycling)

Nicole Begg (in line speed skating) Katherine Prumm (motocross)

Westpac Sports Team of the Year: Men’s Coxless Four (rowing)

Men’s Coxless Four (rowing) Women’s Double Scull (rowing)

Team New Zealand (yachting) Men’s Coxless Pair (rowing)

SPARC Coach of the Year: Kirsten Hellier (athletics)

Gordon Tietjens (rugby) Calvin Ferguson (rowing)

Chris Nilsson (rowing) Kirsten Hellier (athletics)

Westpac Emerging Talent Award: Emma Twigg (rowing)

Edward Dawkins (cycling) Danny Lee (golf)

Emma Twigg (rowing) Brendon Hartley (motorsport)


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