Tokyo Olympians, Blackcaps lead the way as Halberg Awards finalists announced

New Zealand's successful Tokyo Olympics contingent and the World Test Championship winning Blackcaps make up the bulk of the finalists for the upcoming Halberg Awards, recognising a successful two years in Kiwi sport.

After the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on sport saw the 2021 Halberg Awards recognise the best of the decade from 2010 to 2020, this year's awards will take into account performances from Kiwi athletes over the past two years.

In particular, New Zealand's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics performances have been recognised, with a total of 28 finalists across six categories.

Dame Lisa Carrington is arguably the favourite for both sportswoman of the year, and the overall supreme award, after her three gold medals won in Tokyo saw her become New Zealand's most decorated Olympian.

Hamish Bond's status as a New Zealand sporting great is reflected in two nominations, as a finalist in both the sportsman of the year, and team of the year for his role in the Olympic gold medal winning men's eight.

Black Ferns sevens captain Sarah Hirini is another with more than one nomination, shortlisted as an individual in the sportswoman of the year and team of the year for her side's Tokyo gold.

Blackcaps captain Kane Williamson is named as an individual finalist and a contender for team of the year, as his side won the inaugural World Test Championship and reached the final of the Twenty20 World Cup, but will face stiff competition from the rowing men's eight, who won Olympic gold for the first time since 1972.

Squash player Paul Coll's success in 2021 that included three Major victories sees him as a finalist for sportsman of the year, along with IndyCar driver Scott Dixon.

Emma Twigg's fairytale Tokyo gold medal - won after heart-breaking fourth-placed finishes at London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 - sees her as a finalist for sportswoman of the year.

Lydia Ko's return to form in 2021, ending her three year LPGA title drought in the process, and Courtney Duncan's second successive Motocross World Championship title see them round out the sportswoman of the year category.

Emirates Team New Zealand's successful defence of the America's Cup, and the gold medal performance from rowers Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast complete a five-strong field for team of the year.

Black Ferns Sevens coaching duo Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney, Gary Stead of the Blackcaps, Lisa Carrington's long-time mentor Gordon Walker and Tony O'Connor of the men's eight make up the coach of the year finalists.

Dame Sophie Pascoe leads the field as part of the para athlete of the year category after her performance at Tokyo resulted in two gold medals, one silver and one bronze - extending her status as New Zealand's most decorated Paralympian.

Pascoe is joined by Anna Grimaldi, Holly Robinson, Lisa Adams and Tupou Neiufi - all of whom won gold at the Tokyo games.

In the emerging athlete category, Olympic swimmer Erika Fairweather, Silver Fern Grace Nweke, All White Marko Stamenic, discus thrower Connor Bell and snowboarder Cool Wakushima make up the five finalists.

The winners of the sportsman, sportswoman, team and para athlete categories will all enter the running for the supreme award. 

The Halberg Awards will be held on Wednesday February 23.

59th Halberg Awards finalists:

Sportsman of the year: Hamish Bond (rowing), Kane Williamson (cricket), Paul Coll (squash), Scott Dixon (motorsport).

Sportswoman of the year: Courtney Duncan (motocross), Emma Twigg (rowing), Dame Lisa Carrington (canoe racing), Lydia Ko (golf), Sarah Hirini (rugby sevens).

Team of the year: Blackcaps (cricket), Black Ferns Sevens (rugby sevens), Emirates Team New Zealand (sailing), men's eight (rowing), women's pair Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast (rowing).

Coach of the year: Allan Bunting and Corey Sweeney (Black Ferns Sevens), Gary Stead (Blackcaps), Gordon Walker (Lisa Carrington), Tony O'Connor (men's eight).

Para athlete/team of the year: Anna Grimaldi (para athletics), Holly Robinson (para athletics), Lisa Adams (para athletics), Dame Sophie Pascoe (para swimming), Tupou Neiufi (para swimming).

Emerging talent: Connor Bell (athletics), Cool Wakushima (snowboarding), Erika Fairweather (swimming), Grace Nweke (netball), Marko Stamenic (football).