KUALA LUMPUR: The race for both the 2003 Sportsman and Sportswoman is seen as a three-horse race.
The winners will be announced today and the final round of selection has been narrowed down to six candidates for both the categories.
There were 16 nominees for the men's award and the six in the final round are Lim Keng Liat (swimming), Nazmizan Mohamed (athletics), Wong Choon Hann (badminton), Ng Shu Wai (gymnastics), Sazali Abdul Samad (bodybuilding) and Azidi Ameran (bowling).
The six in the women from the 10 nominations are Wong Mew Choo (badminton), Shalin Zulkifli (bowling), Durratun Nasihin Riosli (gymnastics), Yuan Yufang (athletics), Siow Yi Ting (swimming) and Nicol David (squash).
The three leading contenders for the Sportsman's award are Keng Liat, Nazmizan and Choong Hann.
And the frontrunners for the women's award are Shalin, Mew Choo and Nicol.
Keng Liat, who won the 1998 award, holds the credential of being the first Malaysian to qualify for a final in the World Championships. He made the grade in Barcelona last year in the 100m backstroke with a time of 54.77.
It was a new Asian record and it put him as the eighth ranked swimmer in the worlds in the event.
Keng Liat, who was also a nominee for the 2000 and 2001 award, also won three gold medals in the Vietnam SEA Games last December.
Nazmizan won the sprint double at the SEA Games.
The times he clocked in winning the 100m (10.50) and 200m (21.27) were not remarkable ones but he went into the record books as the first Malaysian in 36 years to achieve the feat in the Games series.
Choon Hann stakes his claim for the award with a runner-up finish in the World Championships in Birmingham.
He was the first Malaysian men's singles player to make it to the final since the championships were introduced in 1977.
The 27-year-old Choong Hann bagged two international titles – the Taiwan Open and the Copenhagen Masters. He was the runner-up in the China Open and the Vietnam SEA Games.
Shalin will be hoping to win the award for a record sixth time. She was the winner of the 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2002 award.
Last year, Shalin won the Asian Tour title and spearheaded the team to victory in the World Team Cup and World Championships.
She also captured six other individual titles in international Open tournaments.
Mew Choo and Nicol had significant successes to boast of.
Mew Choo won the SEA Games women's singles gold medal and it was the first time in 26 years that Malaysia won the title. The last winner was Sylvia Ng in the 1977 Games.
Incidentally Sylvia was also the last woman shuttler to win the Sportswoman award in 1978.
Nicol made great strikes in the world ranks to become the first Asian woman to get among the top 10 in the world. It was a supreme effort by the Penangite, considering that she was ranked a lowly 53rd last June.
For the team awards, bowling looked set for a double from the golden efforts of their men and women in the World Team Cup.