One of the most inspiring stories in the last Southeast Asian Games gets to be recognized with a special honor in the SMC-PSA (Philippine Sportswriters Association) Annual Awards Night at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel this weekend.
Gymnastics gold medal winner Daniela dela Pisa joins tennis phenom Alex Eala, future grandmaster Daniel Quizon, and ace swimmer Miguel Barreto as the MILO Junior Athletes of the Year in the March 6 gala night organized and presented by the country’s oldest media organization led by president Tito S. Talao, sports editor of the Manila Bulletin.
Dela Pisa, 16, stepped out of the shadow of illustrious teammate and world champion Carlos Yulo to bag a gold in the hoop final of the women’s rhythmic gymnastics competition of the recent biennial meet. It was the only gold produced by Filipino gymnasts outside of the two won by Yulo (artistic all-around and floor).
The young Cebuana native did the feat after overcoming ovarian cancer at the tender age of four. Through chemotherapy and the love and all-out support of her family, she continued her passion for the sport through the guidance of her mother Darlene, a former gymnast herself, to become the bemedalled athlete that she is today.
Dela Pisa also won a pair of bronze medals in the rhythmic ball and clubs, respectively.
Eala, Quizon, and Barreto are not to be outdone, proof that great things start from small beginnings through hard work and discipline.
The 14-year-old Eala continues her meteoric rise in the world rankings, finishing 2019 rated at no. 9 after making her junior Grand Slam debut in the US Open.
Eala incidentally, also leads the list of Tony Siddayao Awardees who will be recognized in the event supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, MILO, Cignal TV, Philippine Basketball Association, AirAsia, and Rain or Shine.
Quizon, also 14, has an International Master title as he captured the gold in the U16 standard competition of the Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championships in Bangkok. He was likewise the best-placed Filipino in the blitz side event of the Asian Continental Chess Championship in China, where he toppled three Grandmasters in Wan Yunquo and Liu Yan of China, along with Venkataraman Karthik of India.
Currently, Quizon is the youngest in the top 20 Filipino chess players in the country today.
For his part, Barreto distinguished himself as the most bemedalled athlete in last year’s Palarong Pambansa by winning a total of seven gold medals in anchoring the National Capital Region’s dominance over at the pool. The 16-year-old pride of Malolos, Bulacan highlighted the feat by shattering the record in the boys’ 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.
By the end of the year, Barreto was part of the Philippine swimming team that competed in the 30th SEA Games, advancing in the men’s 400-meter freestyle.