The country’s Olympic heroes and top sports achievers get a well-deserved tribute Monday during the annual celebration of the San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association (SMC-PSA) Awards Night at the Diamond ballroom of the Diamond Hotel.
Star of the night is no other than Olympic gold medal winner Hidilyn Diaz who will be honored with the coveted Athlete of the Year award by the country’s oldest media organization in the special two-hour affair presented by the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, and Cignal TV.
Program proper starts at 7:30 p.m. to be hosted by veteran broadcaster Sev Sarmenta and former courtside 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 gifted this nation of 110 million people its first ever gold in the Olympics by winning in record fashion the women’s 55 kg class of the Tokyo Olympiad.
This marks the third time in the last six years the local sportswriting community is recognizing Diaz with its highest individual award after first clinching it in 2016 (silver medal in Rio Olympics) and then two years later in 2018 (gold medal Jakarta Asian Games).
Diaz leads a compact 39-man awardee, including medalists and participants in both the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, who comprised the 2021 PSA honor roll to be recognized in the traditional gala night also backed by MILO (official choco milk), 1Pacman, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Philracom, Rain or Shine, ICTSI, Chooks To Go, MVP Sports Foundation, and Smart.
All awardees, officials, guests, and PSA members are reminded to bring along their vaccination card to allow entry in the venue as part of the health and safety protocols of the hotel.
Two of the country’s current world champions in golfer Yuka Saso and gymnast Carlos Yulo would also be recognized as recipients of the President’s Award to be awarded by PSA prexy Rey C. Lachica, sports editor of Tempo
Meanwhile, Olympic silver medalists Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio and bronze winner Eumir Marcial lead six other achievers who will be handed out with Major Awards that also include billiards champion Carlo Biado, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, grand slam winner Alex Eala, and boxing champions Nonito Donaire Jr., Jerwin Ancajas, and Johnriel Casimero.
Expected to warm the hearts is the bestowing of the Lifetime Achievement Award to two living legends of local basketball in contemporaries and former teammates Robert Jaworski Sr. and Ramon Fernandez.
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 top two Philippine sports officials in POC president Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino, and PSC chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez. Tolentino is the top choice for the Executive of the Year, while Ramirez will be honored with the Excellence in Leadership Award.
More awards courtesy of Chooks To Go and MILO are going to be handed out in the annual affair. Marcial is chosen as the Chooks To Go Fan Favorite ‘Manok Ng Bayan’ awardee, while Diaz receives the first ever MILO Champion of Grit and Glory Award.
To be given with citations are Olympians Margielyn Didal (skateboard), 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 (powerlifting), along with Asian weightlifting double gold winner Vanessa Sarno.
Also part of the program is a short prayer and tribute to all athletes, officials, and friends of Philippine sports who passed away last year.