Mixed martial arts: also known as cage fighting, is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from various combat sports and martial arts. —Wikipedia

Appropriate Halberg Awards except….

By Roger Childs

Halberg Awards 20202 Silver Ferns

It’s one of big events on the New Zealand sporting calendar – recognising the best from 2019. The judges select the winners from a set of nominations, and there has been general approval of their choices this year.

The Silver Ferns took away the big prize of Supreme Award, as well as Team of the Year, for their brilliant win in the 2019 Netball World Cup in England and their coach, Noeline Taurua, predictably won Coach of the Year. The amazing Lisa Carrington, who has been winning gold medals at World Canoeing Championships since 2010, took the Sportswoman of the Year and Sophie Pascoe won the Para-athlete of the Year for the fifth time.

As regards the Emerging Talent Award, teenager skier Alice Robinson was the obvious choice as she won World Cup a gold medal in the highly competitive Giant Slalom back in October, and had another win just a week ago. 

But the big surprise was the Sportsman of the Year.

Not sporting?

Israel Halberg winner

” … this is for the young generation coming up who get to see someone they can relate to, someone of my essence if you will, that they can see a combat athlete … is up there with the likes of the All Blacks, the Black Caps, the Tall Blacks. –Israel Adesanya

Middleweight world champion in mixed martial arts, Israel Adesanya, was named Sportsman of the Year for 2019. The 30 year old Nigerian-New Zealand fighter is the first combat sport athlete to win the award since 1953 and delivered a fiery acceptance speech, calling for an end to the “tall poppy” culture in the country and motivating young athletes. Adesanya claimed the honour ahead of world shot put champion, Tom Walsh, Supercars champion, Scott McLaughlin, and Black Caps skipper, Kane Williamson.

Many lauded the recognition of a ”smaller” sport after rugby players, rowers, cricketers and athletes had dominated the awards in recent years. But others questioned accepting “cage fighting” as a sport. 

I agree with the latter group, as my view is that any activity that has hurting your opponent as a key objective –- boxing, martial arts taekwondo, wrestling — is not sport. 

So for me the people selecting the Halberg winners got it right on most counts, but in making a martial arts fighter Sportman of the Year they did ”sport” a disservice.