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The best Philippine athletes at PSA awards night

by Bryan Gadingan

THE SAN Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association (SMC-PSA) Annual Awards Night, held Monday at the Diamond Hotel in Manila, celebrated the best-performing Filipino athletes of 2023.

The sports writing fraternity led by PSA president Nelson Beltran, sports editor of the Philippine Star, recognized 140 honorees in what is touted as the association’s largest awards night in its 75-year existence.

Photo Courtesy: Philippine Sportswriters Association | Facebook

The Philippines’ top sports leaders, including Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair Richard Bachman and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino, led the sports community in toasting the athletes, individuals and organizations that excelled in their respective disciplines and made the country proud in 2023.

Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, the Asian record holder and world No. 2 pole vaulter, was the night’s shining star as he received the prestigious Athlete of the Year Award from the country’s oldest media organization.

Photo Courtesy: Philippine Sportswriters Association | Facebook

In his acceptance speech, the Philippines’ 2023 SEA Games and 19th Asian Games gold medalist expressed his desire to make a difference.

“I see my role as a means to an end, a means to inspire the next generation of our youth, to illustrate the ability and talent of our country, and, of course, as a means of nation-building,” said Obiena as he received the honor via Zoom.

“Superficially, it’s me using a pole to lift over a bar, but underneath it is a very powerful means for me to drive positive change,” he added.

The extensive list of SMC-PSA awardees includes Mr. President Award winner Gilas Pilipinas, which broke the country’s decades-long drought in Asian Games basketball.

The top honorees in their respective sports were “Mr. Basketball” June Mar Fajardo, “Ms. Volleyball” Tots Carlos, “Ms. Tennis” Alex Eala, and “Ms. Football” Sarina Bolden.

Photo Courtesy: Philippine Sportswriters Association | Facebook

The Philippine women’s national football team, which had a historic run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, was honored with the Golden Lady Booters award.

Named Executives of the Year were SMC president and CEO Ramon S. Ang and First Pacific chair and CEO Manny V. Pangilinan. 

This comes after their collaboration in the successful hosting of the FIBA World Cup and regaining the precious basketball gold at the 19th Asiad in Hangzhou, China.

Overall, it was a fantastic night to appreciate sports and everything the honorees have done to represent the country globally. The recognition would likely also motivate them to work harder on their craft in 2024.

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