World No. 1 men's singles badminton shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei and World No. 2 women's squash player Datuk Nicol David, have emerged as the front-runners for the "Athlete Of The Year" 2009 Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) 100PLUS award.
Chong Wei and Nicol, both former winners of this prestigious sporting award, are among six nominees being shortlisted by SAM.
The other top national athletes nominated are newly crowned world champion cyclist Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang, the winner of five SEA Games swimming gold medals, Daniel Bego, diving pair Pandelela Rinong and Leong Mun Yee, and the women's badminton team that won the event's gold medal at the SEA Games in Laos, thus ending Malaysia's 34-year drought.
Deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be the guest-of-honour at the award ceremony to be held on Saturday at PJ Hotel.
"For the first time, the award ceremony will be held in the morning this Saturday. We are delighted that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has agreed to grace the event which will also be attended by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Shabery Cheek, while former SAM presidents will also be attending," said SAM president Ahmad Khawari Isa.
Khawari said there would be uniqueness in the winners' selection process whereby winners would be solely decided by the votes cast by SAM members nationwide.
"We are expecting the unexpected as the final decision is in the hands of the members, not by a panel of judges as what happened in the past," he said.
Meanwhile, the country's no. 1 isotonic drink 100PLUS, F&N Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd corporate affairs manager Datuk Kamal Harun said this event was to further recognise the untiring efforts by national top athletes who pushed themselves to the limits in the quest for success.
The winner of 'Athlete of the Year' award will take home RM10,000 in prize money and a trophy, while a special 'Outdo Yourself' award will also be announced at the awards ceremony.
Apart from recognising the athletes' sterling achievement, SAM members who are sports journalists plying their trade in the country's print and electronic media organisations, will stand to win a total of RM40,000 in cash prizes for the SAM-Youth and Sports Ministry Media Awards.
There are six media award categories namely the best in news report (print), commentary (print), news report (electronic), commentary (electronic), special report (print and electronic), and photography.
Winners of the six categories will receive RM3,000 in cash and trophy each, and will again stand a chance to be crowned as the overall winner in which he or she will be awarded with an additional RM7,000 in cash and a trophy.