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Ranking: The 25 strongest athletes in New Zealand sport


09/15/2021 12:20 AM

The 25 best athletes in New Zealand based on performance, status and profile. Photos / photo sports

They are back. After a six-year absence, say hello to the Sportpower rankings presented by the Otago Daily Times’ absolutely objective sports editor, Hayden Meikle.

It was always a fun exercise. Rank the 25 strongest athletes currently in New Zealand based on performance, status, profile, and good old-fashioned bias.

Richie McCaw was number one when we made our first rankings in 2010 – and he would be number one for five years in a row, which he sure said was one of the big moments of his career.

Who now rules the quarter? Let’s find out. Spoiler alert: there’s a new king in town.

The top 10

1. Kane Williamson (cricket)

King Kane

The Black Caps are test world champions. That still feels extraordinary. And at the head of this particular team is a special man who is destined (if he isn’t already) to be considered our greatest batsman and possibly (gasp) to pass Sir Richard Hadlee as our greatest cricketer. He should have years left, but he shouldn’t take Williamson for granted.

2. Lisa Carrington (canoeing)

Woman paddle

Right now the most popular and marketable athlete in New Zealand sport. Carrington’s heroics in Tokyo – and the two Olympic Games before that – give her the direct route to the Hall of Fame. The question is whether their overwhelming success will cause their minority sport to boom.

3. Israel Adesanya (MMA)

The last style tamer

Many, like me, don’t particularly like the sport, nor the classlessness that so many of its fighters show. But the UFC is huge, and Adesanya is the most famous kiwi athlete in the world.

4. Chris Wood (soccer)


Undervalued by many, but NOT undervalued by these prestigious rankings. Wood is a generation talent and it never gets boring to see him meet in the Premier League.

5. Steven Adams (basketball)

Steven Adams.  Photo / photo sportsSteven Adams. Photo / photo sports

Grizzly Adams

Play for the Tall Blacks, buddy, and you could land in number one.

6. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (yachts)

Great sailor

The dazzling duo narrowly missed a second Olympic gold in Tokyo, but their star hasn’t weakened. Led the America’s Cup defense in March and now they are in SailGP competition.

7. Lydia Ko (golf)

We from

Bronze at the Olympics, a long professional drought broken with victory on the LPGA Tour and back to 5th place in the world. How nice to see Ko happy and play well again.

8. Sam Cane (rugby)

Skipper offside

The all-black captain – a job that only comes second after the prime minister – at the bottom of eighth place? Crips. Cane may not have McCaw or Read status, but he will show his worth when he returns from injury.

9. Sophie Pascoe (swimming)

Sophie Pascoe.  Photo / photo sportsSophie Pascoe. Photo / photo sports

Paralympic queen

Not sure what else to say. Truly amazing.

10. Scott Dixon (Motorsport)

Wheely good

Still tough on the IndyCar series despite having had a frustrating season. The six-time champion won 50 races this year. If it looks like he’s being eclipsed by his kiwi Scott McLaughlin, who joined IndyCar after winning three Supercars titles this year, that doesn’t mean Dixon should quietly walk into the night.

The rest

11. Sam Whitelock (rugby)

Deputy All-Black Captain and a huge influence on the team.

12. Kyle Jamieson (cricket)

The new rock star of New Zealand cricket.

13. Ameliaranne Ekenasio (netball)

Ameliaranne Ekenasio.  Photo / photo sportsAmeliaranne Ekenasio. Photo / photo sports

On maternity leave but will be back for the next two years to run the Silver Ferns in the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.

14.Aaron Smith (rugby)

So powerful that the ODT newspaper named after him for a whole week.

15. Hamish Bond (rowing)

Put him in a boat, it wins.

16. Sarah Hirini (rugby)

Inspirational leader of the fantastic Black Ferns Sevens.

17. Dame Valerie Adams (athletics)

In the twilight of a remarkable career.

18.Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (snowboarding)

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott.  Photo / photo sportsZoi Sadowski-Synnott. Photo / photo sports

A medalist at the Winter Olympics and a two-time world champion. On 20.

19. Devon Conway (cricket)

The most exciting thing we’ve stolen from South Africa since Irene van Dyk.

20.Emma Twigg (rowing)

The most heartwarming story of the year.

21. Courtney Duncan (Motocross)

Two-time world champion and you have the feeling that she wants 20 titles.

22. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (League and Rugby)

From Warriors Kingpin to Rugb … I think we’ll see.

23. Ryan Fox (golf)

Still consistent performance without reaching amazing heights.

24. Shane van Gisbergen (Motorsport)

Only 276 points ahead for The Giz in the Supercars classification.

25. Tom Walsh (athletics)

Big Bopper won Olympic bronze again and is a consistent performance on the world stage.

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