MARIA GROZDEVA TO BE DECLARED SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Although Nove Holding has not yet started processing the forms of the Sportsman of the Year survey, there is little doubt who will take the prize at the ceremony in the Kempinski hotel on December 21. It is almost certain now that Maria Grozdeva will become the second shooter following Vessela Lecheva to be declared number one in Bulgaria. Moreover, she will be the first to take the prize alone. Thanks to the Athens gold and bronze medals, Maria Grozdeva has five Olympic medals in her collection and that's a record high achievement for the Bulgarian sports. Her triumph in the World Cup finals in Bangkok guaranteed her victory in the 47th best sportsman in the country ranking. Seven out of every ten journalists who took part in the survey placed Ms. Grozdeva first and none of them left her outside the top five, the BANKER weekly learned.In fact, the supremacy of the two-time Olympic champion was not disputed even by her direct competitors. Unlike last year when debates and mutual attacks between Yordan Yovchev and Armen Nazaryan started almost four months before the survey, this time there was perfect unanimity in the sports world. Maria has to become the Sportswoman of the Year, she deserves it most, Yordan Yovchev said right after the Olympics in Athens were closed. I would be hurt if they don't choose me because I don't think there is anyone who deserves it more, Maria Grozdeva confirmed. I do not approve this ranking, but as far as it already exists I should be the one to win it.According to an improvised survey by the BANKER weekly, the top five ranking will also include Yordan Yovchev (who won two medals in Athens), Milen Dobrev (who defended the image of the Bulgarian weight-lifting), Ivet Lalova (who did not win any medals but is still the fastest white woman in the world for 2004), Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviisky (who deserved to be the figure skating world champions as much as Yordan Yovchev deserved to win the Olympic gold). Apart from acknowledgement by the sports journalists, Maria Grozdeva will also be presented a sculpture and a Mazda worth some BGN50,000. Another Mazda that will be awarded to the winner in the Coach of the Year ranking may be taken by Maria's husband, Valeri Grigorov, who is her personal coach and one of the favourites in the survey. There is no other specialist in Bulgaria who can boast of winning three Olympic medals, including two gold ones, for only five years of work. Nevertheless, his victory is not so certain. Representatives of collective sports are usually considered to have advantage in the best coach ranking. The prize may well be awarded to the football national coach for the third year in a row. Should that happen, let's only hope it will bring more luck to Hristo Stoichkov than it did to his predecessor Plamen Markov.