Olympic heroes and the country’s top sportsmen receive a well-deserved tribute on Monday during the annual San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association (SMC-PSA) awards night celebration in the Diamond Ballroom at the Diamond Hotel. .
The star of the night is none other than Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz who will be honored with the coveted Athlete of the Year award by the nation’s oldest media organization as part of the special case of two hours presented by the Philippine Athletic Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, and Cignal TV.
The actual program begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be hosted by veteran broadcaster Sev Sarmenta and former court reporter and now news anchor Rizza Diaz.
The 31-year-old weightlifter from Zamboanga City provided one of the greatest moments in Philippine sports history last year when she handed the nation of 110 million its first-ever gold medal at the Olympic Games by winning the women’s 55 kg category of the Tokyo Olympiad in a record manner.
This is the third time in the past six years that the local sporting community has awarded Diaz its highest individual honor after winning it for the first time in 2016 (silver medal at the Rio Olympics) and then two years later in 2018 (gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta).
Diaz leads a compact 39-man winner, including medalists and participants from the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, who made up the PSA 2021 Honor Roll to be recognized at the traditional gala evening also supported by MILO (chocolate milk official), 1Pacman, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Philracom, Rain or Shine, ICTSI, Chooks To Go, MVP Sports Foundation and Smart.
All winners, officials, guests and PSA members are reminded to bring their vaccination card to allow entry to the venue under hotel health and safety protocols.
Two of the country’s current world champions, golfer Yuka Saso and gymnast Carlos Yulo, would also be recognized as recipients of the President’s Award by PSA President Rey C. Lachica, sports editor of Tempo.
Meanwhile, Olympic silver medalists Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio and bronze winner Eumir Marcial lead six other winners who will receive major prizes which also include snooker champion Carlo Biado, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, Grand Slam winner Alex Eala and boxing champions Nonito. Donaire Jr., Jerwin Ancajas and Johnriel Casimero.
The awarding of the Lifetime Achievement Award to two living legends of contemporary local basketball and former teammates, Robert Jaworski Sr. and Ramon Fernandez, should warm hearts.
Meanwhile, the National Sports Association (NSA) of the Year will be awarded to the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas and the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP).
Not to be outdone are the two top Filipino sports officials of POC President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and PSC President William “Butch” Ramirez. Tolentino is the top pick for Executive of the Year, while Ramirez will be honored with the Leadership Excellence Award.
Other rewards offered by Chooks To Go and MILO will be awarded at the annual event. Marcial is chosen as Chooks To Go Fan Favorite ‘Manok Ng Bayan’ winner, while Diaz receives the first-ever MILO Champion of Grit and Glory Award.
Olympians Margielyn Didal (skateboarding), Irish Magno (boxing), Bianca Pagdanganan (golf), Juvic Pagunsan (golf), Elreen Ando (weightlifting), Kristina Knott (athletics), Remedy Rule (swimming), Luke Gebbie (swimming), Kiyomi Watanabe (judo), Cris Nievarez (rowing), Kurt Barbosa (taekwondo) and Jayson Valdez (shooting), Paralympians Jerrold Mangliwan (wheelchair racing), Ernie Gawilan (swimming), Gary Bejino (swimming), Allain Ganapin ( taekwondo), Jeanette Aceveda (athletics) and Achelle Guion (weightlifting), as well as double gold medalist in Asian weightlifting Vanessa Sarno.
A short prayer and tribute to all the athletes, officials and friends of Filipino sport who died last year are also part of the program.