Philippine sports’ cream of the crop who made 2022 a truly memorable one for the country crowd each other out in a tight race for the Athlete of the Year honor of the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, world-ranked pole vaulter EJ Obiena, two-time world champion Carlos Yulo, and history makers Alex Eala and the Filipinas football team are all in the mix for the coveted individual award exclusively handed out by the country’s oldest media organization.
The traditional San Miguel Corporation (SMC)-PSA Awards Night is set on March 6 at the Ballroom of Diamond Hotel.
Also to be given out in one of the biggest PSA Awards Night in recent years presented by the Philippine Sports Commission, ICTSI, 1Pacman, Rain or Shine, and OkBet are the President’s Award, Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement Award, National Sports Association of the Year, Executive of the Year, Mr. Basketball, Ms. Football, Major Awards, Tony Siddayao Awards, Pioneers/Founders Awards, Lifetime Award in Sports Journalism, and the usual Citations.
Diaz and Co. were at the forefront of one of the most remarkable periods in Philippine sports history.
The year that passed was on its final month when the 31-year-old Diaz vaulted her way to the limelight following a golden treble in the 88th IWF World Weightlifting Championships in Bogota, Colombia. The country’s first ever Olympic gold medalist swept the women’s 55 kg class by topping the snatch, clean and jerk, and total lift for a dominant win in the world meet for the very first time.
Team Filipinas actually, set in motion the country’s 2022 campaign on a high note, as it punched a historic ticket for a first ever stint in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Filipina booters did it by way of a best finish of third place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup held in Pune, India last February.
In between those feats, Yulo, Obiena, and Eala also made their presence felt big time.
Yulo won three gold medals in the 9th Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar, and later on, clinched a silver and a bronze in the 51st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England.
Not to be outdone was Obiena, 27, who captured a historic bronze medal in the World Athletics Championships in Oregon behind a new Asian-high record of 5.94 meters in the men’s pole vault. The feat lifted the Tondo native at no. 3 in the world rankings.
And Eala? Who could forget how the charming Filipina stamped her class in the world of tennis when she captured the 142nd US Open junior girls’ singles championship in Flushing Meadows, New York. Her 6-2, 6-4 victory over Czech Lucie Havlickova in the finals made her the first Filipino ever to bag a junior singles grand slam crown.
Incidentally, all five of them also won medals in the 31st Southeast Asian Games, with Yulo spearheading the country’s bid by winning a total of five golds as the Philippines finished a fighting fourth in Vietnam.