Sally Pearson winning gold in the 100 m hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics. Click for more photos

10 Best Sportswomen of 2012

Sally Pearson winning gold in the 100 m hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

  • Sally Pearson winning gold in the 100 m hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics.
  • Stephanie Gilmore five-time world champion surfer.
  • Australia's gold medallist Jacqueline Freney poses on the podium during the victory ceremony for the women's 100m backstroke at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
  • Anna Meares has been the 500 metre track time trial world champion twice, and a gold medalist at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
  • Cricketer Ellyse Perry is the youngest person, male or female, to represent Australia in cricket and the first Australian woman to have appeared in both cricket and association football World Cups.
  • ANZ Championship netball player Caitlin Bassett shoots and scores.
  • Australian rower Kim Crow (here with her partner and Brooke Pratley) winning silver in the women's double sculls at the London Olympics.
  • Sarah Walsh of the Matildas celebrates a goal during the women's international friendly  match between the Australian Matildas and New Zealand on June 27, 2012 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

  • Meg Lanning bats during game two of the women's One Day International series between the Australian Southern Stars and New Zealand at North Sydney Oval on December 14, 2012 in Sydney.  (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
  • Kristi Harrower in Action for Opals, Australia v Brazil in June this year.

Sally Pearson – London Olympic gold medallist and golden girl of Australian sport – has been pipped at the post for Sportswoman of the Year by a racehorse by Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

Sportswriters Phil Rothfield and Darren Hadland named Black Caviar as the best female athlete this year as part of their annual top 50 moments of the year column.

"The mighty mare took on the Poms on their own turf and still beat them. Let's see Frankel do that. That's right, they were too afraid to bring him here," they wrote.

Black Caviar

Black Caviar

While Rothfield maintains the column is a "light hearted" review of the year in sport, the decision to snub a human being for the award has been mocked on social media as sexist and an insult to many female athletes, especially Pearson, whose win in London was roundly considered a highlight of the games.

Channel Seven AFL commentator Tom Harley tweeted it was "plain offensive to all the inspirational sportswomen of Australia".

Comedian Wil Anderson was one of hundreds of people to tweet their disgust, saying: "If a horse can win Sportswoman Of The Year then surely a man can now marry a horse? Oh no, Cory Bernardi was right..."

Rothfield defended the award and responded to the online backlash by telling critics to "pull your head in".

"Caviar is a girl and new Phar Lap. She stopped a nation."

It wasn't enough to stop the criticism, with "tele", "Black Caviar" and "sportswoman" trending on Twitter.

Fellow News Limited sports journalist Mark Robinson condemned the so-called award, calling it "utterly embarrassing".

By contrast, Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke was named Sportsman of the Year for his four double centuries this year.

"His 329 against India at the SCG was incredible. Well played, Pup."

Other prominent female athletes who were snubbed include members of Australia's only Olympic gold medal in the pool, Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlange, plus cyclist Anna Meares, who also won gold in London.

Earlier this year, News Limited stablemate The Australian listed the nation's 50 most influential people in sport.

Only four were female, including another horse.