Coming Tuesday: The 2009 Daily News Sportspersons of the Year

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Abby and Zac Sunderland, the 2009 Daily News Sportspersons of the Year. Staff photo by John McCoy.

Who in the name of Los Angeles made the biggest impact on our sportsworld in 2009?

Kobe Bryant, for delivering the Lakers’ 15th NBA title to Los Angeles? Phil Jackson, for breaking the record with his 10th world championship as an NBA coach?

Nope, and nope..

Zenyatta, for delivering an emotional victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against a field of 11 male horses at Santa Anita to stay perfect and retire undefeated?

Close, but she’s no Cigar.

Zac Sunderland did something no other human did when, at 17 years old, he sailed the world’s oceans solo. The Thousand Oaks teenager left Marina del Rey in the summer of ’08 and returned 11 months later, 20 pounds lighter, a bit worn for wear, but with an adventure none of his friends ever experienced. Pirates, sleep deprivation, repairs to his 36-foot Intrepid that would seem ridiculous.

It added up to Zac being co-Daily News Sportsperson of the Year.

As Chris Jones wrote when he did a piece on Zac for the covery story in the June 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine: “(Zac) discovered a new resilience, gleaned from the humidy-swollen Mark Twain collection he had stored in his cabin, with its invocations to live an extraordinary life, to believe that something larger is waiting if we just lift our fat asses off the couch.”

Zac has to share the award with his 16-year-old sister, Abby.

She said she had the idea, three years ago, to sail around the world. Unassisted. And by herself. It’s just that her older brother had the money saved up first to do it.

Now it’s her chance.

While trying to have already left, Abby’s plans have been updated to where she’ll be leaving Marina del Rey sometime next week. According to her latest blog entry (linked here), she’s still getting her 40-foot vessel, Wild Eyes, with the right equipment, freeze-dried food and homework books.

As if she’ll really have many waking hours to dedicate to reading.

Tuesday, read more about the siblings separated by 23 months but with one big thing in common: Big dreams.

One accomplished his. The other is about to.

“I think they’re pretty typical brother and sister,” says their mother, Marianne. “He teases her, she teases him, but ultimately they look out for each other.”

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