Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

You don’t have to be a fortune teller to predict that Scott Dixon will once again miss out on the Supreme Award at the Halbergs for 2015.

Sure, he has now equalled Dario Franchitti’s record of four IndyCar championship wins, won more individual races than any other driver since 1996, and is now arguably the best driver in IndyCar’s new format.

Unfortunately, Dixon was silly enough to achieve all of this in a Rugby World Cup year – so barring some catastrophe, the award already has ‘Sir Richie McCaw’ etched onto it.

Not that Richie doesn’t deserve the honour, as well as a knighthood and hopefully free physiotherapy for life – it’s a small consolation for the man who has carried the weight of an entire nation on his back for the better part of a decade.

But in the case of New Zealand’s top sporting top award celebrating the success of our athletes on the world stage, Dixon is always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

There are two main reasons for this, the first is that IndyCar suffers from having an undeserved reputation of being as easy as turning the steering wheel left to go around in circles a few hundred times. In reality, the sport requires insane levels of hand eye co-ordination, mental and physical strength, and the race itself has multiple changes in whose leading, and complex strategies around tire and fuel management.

IndyCar also includes street circuits, which are usually dominated by Dixon.

In contrast, Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix – considered the crown jewel of motorsport circuits – is largely a procession where in all but rare instances; the winner is decided by who qualifies first rather than what happens in the actual race.

IndyCar has to battle against some pretty bad PR which has resulted in Dixon’s recent victory occupying the front page of NZHerald.co.nz for about 15 minutes before inevitably being replaced by an article about a Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars contestant.

The second is the nature of the Halberg awards, its judging panel and the criteria used to judge the athletes. If you weren’t already aware of the criteria, here it is:

1. Regarding the achievement:

  • a. was it in that sport’s ‘pinnacle event’ (eg Olympics, Paralympics, Football World Cup)
  • b. was it a world record, or world ranking or recognition (eg ‘World Player of the Year’).
  • c. the quality of the field / competition.

2. The global nature of the sport.

And the judging panel is made up of 28 independent voters which are currently made up of 10 journalists, 4 olympians, 2 cricket, 2 rugby, 2 cycling, and one from netball, league, Paralympian, softball, motorsport, golf and field hockey.

Dixon met all of the criteria in 2003, 2008, 2013 and now in 2015. His best year was probably 2008 when he won the Indy 500 however he had to settle for Sportsman of the Year because it was an Olympic year and he was up against Valarie Adams.

His best shot at the top spot would have been in 2013 but the judging committee pre-emptively jumped on the Lydia Ko bandwagon and she received the Supreme Award.

Dixon was robbed that year. This isn’t suggesting that Ko isn’t a deserving athlete and she has certainly done New Zealand proud on the world stage, but back in 2013 she had only just turned pro at the end of the year and at that stage had only won 2 professional events.

Very little of her events were even broadcast on New Zealand television, so unless the judging panel went out of their way to stream the events then (aside from highlights packages) they would have never actually seen her play. It is more like she received the award on potential and the hype surrounding her age.

So despite being a four time world champion in a sport that is watched by millions of people around the world, Dixon will miss out again.

It is the same fate suffered by Sophie Pascoe and all of the other athletes that are dominating in sports that are less popular in New Zealand than they are in the rest of the world.

Dixon will just have to hope that 5th times the charm.

By Elisa Harris

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