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Armstrong tops Reuters sportsman of year poll

December 19, 2003 15:36 IST

Cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won a fifth consecutive Tour de France this year, has been voted Reuters sportsman of 2003.

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Thirty-one sports editors and journalists from 24 countries nominated up to three leading sportsmen of 2003. Each first place choice was awarded three points, second place got two points and third place received one point.

The American cancer survivor, who topped the poll with 42 points out of a possible total of 93, matched the feat of Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain when he clinched his fifth title in the sport's biggest race.

"What he's done in that race is extraordinary...He's the number one sportsperson in the world right now," said Ondrej Foltin at the Herald Sun in Australia.

But Armstrong only narrowly beat England rugby union flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, who received 37 points and German six times Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, who gained 36 points.

The poll was taken from December 11 to 17.

Sports journalists said Wilkinson stood out as one of the top sportsmen of 2003 after his 100th-minute drop goal gave England a 20-17 win over Australia in the World Cup final in November.

MIRACLE MAN

The match-winning goal also meant England became the first northern hemisphere side to win the World Cup.

"Wilkinson lived up to his pre-tournament billing and effectively won the Rugby World Cup for England with superb kicking throughout the tournament and that never-to-be forgotten drop goal...against Australia," said Malachy Logan at The Irish Times.

Valentijn Driessen at De Telegraaf in the Netherlands agreed. "We don't know a lot about rugby in Holland, but everybody was talking about Jonny Wilkinson...A miracle man."

The 24-year old was named the International Rugby Board's player of the year and received an MBE (Member of the Order of British Empire) from Britain's Queen Elizabeth this month.

Others chose Michael Schumacher, who became the first Formula One driver to win six championships, overtaking the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in the record books.

"Schumacher's record-breaking sixth world championship probably was the one he won with most merit, as for once he didn't have an unbeatable car and was handicapped by the new qualifying system," said Andre Fontenelle at Veja in Brazil.

American swimmer Michael Phelps came fourth in the poll with 20 points, while Arsenal striker Thierry Henry of France came fifth with 13 points.

"Even to the untrained eye, Henry's skills are truly breathtaking," said Soteris Charalambous at Cyprus Mail.

"The fact that he plays the game with a smile on his face and a healthy respect for his opponents is a throwback to the true definition of a sportsman."


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