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NZ sports year to savour - and more awaits

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/12/2014
Ex All Blacks captain Richie McCaw with current new skipper Kieran Read © Phil Walter/Getty Images Ex All Blacks captain Richie McCaw with current new skipper Kieran Read

New Zealand sport success stories were many and varied in 2014 but most had something in common - muscle flexing.

Our highest profile teams, the All Blacks and Black Caps can both reflect on a prosperous 12 months but bigger prizes await next year.

There were psychological points won by New Zealand's leading Olympic medal prospects two years out from Rio 2016.

Rowing and cycling justified their surge in government funding while peerless Kiwi women Valerie Adams, Lisa Carrington and Lydia Ko proved they will be among the favourites when the Games roll around.

The rowers emerged as top nation at a world championships for the first time. Six of their nine medals at Amsterdam had a golden hue.

Sports winners and losers PHOTOS: 2014's winners and losers in sport

Peerless men's pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond snared a double, winning the men's pair and coxed pair.

Single sculler Emma Twigg and three other women's crews claimed other golds and also played a key part in New Zealand topping the World Cup points standings.

Just as unbeatable on the water was Carrington, who powered to another world championships gold in Moscow, and men's sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who easily claimed the 49er world title in Santander.

Cyclists were at the heart of a bonny medal haul the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, winning six of 14 Kiwi gold medals.

That tally and the 45 total medals are the most won by New Zealand at an offshore Games.

Sam Webster won the men's sprint and was part of the dominant men's sprint team, while Tom Scully and Shane Archbold claimed other track golds. Linda Villumsen made her career breakthrough win in the road time trial and mountain biker Anton Cooper powered away in the cross country.

Other Glasgow gold medallists were disabled swimmer Sophie Pascoe (two), boxer David Nyika, shooter Sally Johnston, lawn bowler Jo Edwards, weightlifter Richie Patterson, swimmer Lauren Boyle and shot put great Adams.

Injury dogged Adams' year yet she maintained her 56-meet unbeaten record, including the world indoor title.

Cycling's year began with a men's sprint team gold at the track world championships in Colombia.

There was heartbreak for road professional Jack Bauer, who held the peloton at bay for 200km in stage 15 of the Tour de France before being overhauled in tears over the closing metres, shattering his goal of becoming the Tour's first individual Kiwi stage winner.

Phenomenal teenage golfer Ko finished her first full professional season on a high.

Victory in the Tour Championship in Florida was her third of the year and 15th in the LPGA top-10, earning her more than $US3 million prize money.

The All Blacks retained their world No.1 ranking throughout another dominant year.

They lost one of 14 Tests - to the Springboks in Johannesburg - though were pushed close in several others, generating some unease ahead of the World Cup.

The Crusaders lost the Super Rugby final to the Waratahs while Taranaki beat Tasman as provincial unions enjoyed a golden NPC season.

The Black Caps were promising at ODI level ahead of their World Cup in February but the Test gains caught most by surprise.

Home series wins over the West Indies and India were backed up with a series win in the West Indies and a draw away to Pakistan.

The batting of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson was prolific while seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee were potent with the new ball.

But for impact, nobody could match Brendon McCullum, whose bold batting matched his leadership, scoring the Black Caps' first triple-century along with two double tons.

The Kiwis also captured the imagination in an unbeaten Four Nations campaign, including a rarity - successive wins over Australia.

Halfback Shaun Johnson's sizzling display in the final against the Kangaroos in Wellington will be long-remembered, leaving Warriors fans wondering why the playmaker can't always hit those heights in the NRL.

Soccer's highlight arrived in December, when minnows Auckland City somehow finished third at the club World Cup stunning big names in the process and veteran Ivan Vicelich was rated the third-best player of the tournament.

2015 PREDICTIONS 

  • Black Caps exit in the World Cup semi-finals

  • Lydia Ko wins a maiden golf major and rises to the No.1 ranking

  • Silver Ferns well beaten by Australia in the netball world championship final

  • Valerie Adams' winning streak ends but she claims world championships gold 

  • All Blacks pip England in a low-scoring World Cup final 
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