2011’s Most Intriguing Sportspeople

Publication Date: Monday, 27/12/2010

As 2010 races to a close, EPO presents two end-of-year commentaries. Next week, he will reveal his Most Incredible Plays of 2010. This week, with apologies to the magazines that have compiled lists like this in the past, he presents the 10 Most Intriguing Sportspeople of 2011.

Alberto Contador

Having won the 2010 Tour de France, Contador is now in the midst of hearings regarding his failed drug test. He claims the beef was contaminated, while officials claim that he was cheating. Could it be that he will become the second recent Yellow Jersey winner to be stripped of the honour? Or will it be found that he was worthy after all? And what happens to the sport now that yet another of its stars has been tainted?

Karmichael Hunt

As the Gold Coast Suns enter the AFL for their inaugural season, Hunt is only behind Gary Ablett Jnr as the new club’s most prominent recruit. His first few games in the VFL last year showed that he’s an athlete who is slowly learning the game. Can he – and then Folau 12 months hence – get a game? And if he does, will he bring a greater level of interest to the sport in Queensland? Or is his massive salary going to be a white-elephant-esque presence in the sport as it aims for greater national exposure?

Ana Ivanovic

The most gorgeous woman on tour had its most inconsistent serve at the start of 2010. Having briefly been ranked Number 1, and having reached the Final of the Aussie Open and won the French Open in 2008, Ivanovic hasn’t reached the quarters of a Slam since. If 10 early losses in a row becomes 14 in 2011, will she always be seen as someone who never quite lived up to her potential? Or is she going to storm back into contention, as she showed she might late in 2010 as her ranking rose back up to number 17?

LeBron James

“The King”, or “The Chosen One” disappeared under the heat – best pun ever – of the 2010 playoffs. The Celtics defeated James’ Cavs in 6 games, and before the basketballing world knew it, he announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach in what many argue was a move that will only be deemed successful if the Heat win multiple championships. But how will LeBron himself shape up under the pressure that is the NBA playoffs come 2011? Is he going to be able to remove the proverbial monkey and show skill, grace and talent under such pressure? Will his performance matter less with Wade and Bosh by his side? Can he “take over” when required? Will he ever truly be as great as people think he has the potential to be?

Lisel Jones

Come 2012, Jones has the opportunity to be the first Australian swimmer to attend 4 Olympic Games. The young girl who was lauded upon her success in Sydney before being pilloried for being disappointed as missing out on Gold at Athens, and who finally broke through for her first individual gold in Beijing is aiming for London. But can she make it? Her public demeanor and persona appears to have turned around – Australia now treats her as one of the “darlings of the pool” along with Lenton and Rice, and following the path of O’Neill and Lewis. But can her mind and body help her to achieve what no-one else ever has?

Josh Kennedy & Chris Masten

The two West Coast Eagles were predicted to have breakout years in 2010, and while it didn’t quite happen as the Footy Record may have expected, many will still think the two youngsters have the potential to be an intimidatingly impressive combination for the Eagles come 2011. Will they finally live up to their hype, or will the fact that Judd won the Brownlow again in 2010 continue to depress Eagles fans who saw their captain traded for these two at the end of 2007?

Alexander Ovechkin

For the uninitiated, Ovechkin is, in many ways, the NHL’s version of LeBron James. Sure, he’s not quite as over-hyped, but he’s a brash, exciting playmaker who’s also one of the league’s leading scorers. In 2010, he also had a LeBron-esque flame out or two. Firstly, his Russian team missed out on a medal at the Winter Olympics after losing 7-3 to Canada in the quarterfinals, and then his Washington Capitals – who had won more games during the regular season than any other team – lost their first round playoff series to Montreal 4-3 after being ahead by 3 games to 1. Can Ovechkin overcome his playoff demons and live up to the expectations of Sports Illustrated who predicted that he’d lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup this season? Or will he continue to be a star during the regular season who can’t manage to close out results when the pressure is at its greatest?

Maria Tutaia

In 2010, Tutaia was the best player on court in the best netball game ever played. She dominated the goal circle in the second half and the two overtime periods of the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal match in such a way that not only did she make a majority of her shots, but she made many of them from a distance. For the first time in her incredible career, Irene Van Dyk – at almost 40 years old – was the Silver Ferns’ second option in a match where Tutaia was completely unstoppable. Was it the coming of age of the world’s next great shooter? Or was it just one day where Tutaia was “in the zone”? Will the Australian side be able to counter her more effectively with a fit Corletto at the 2011 World Championships? Or will Tutaia’s confidence not only help to maintain the Kiwi dominance of internationals, but also help the Northern Mystics start to become a force in the trans-tasman competition?

Tiger Woods

Whether you want him to break Niklaus’ record, or you want him spend the next 10 years frustrated and failing to win an event for the first time since the news broke, it’s one hell of an intriguing ride.

Bring on 2011!

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