MANILA, Philippines -- The cream of the crop of Philippine sports will face off in a tight race for Athlete of the Year honors that will be given out by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA).
Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, world-ranked pole vaulter EJ Obiena, two-time world champion Carlos Yulo, and history makers Alex Eala and the Philippine women's national 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 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.
The Filipinas set the tone for a historic 2022, as they claimed a ticket to the FIFA Women's World Cup by making the semifinals of the AFC Women's Asian Cup in Pune, India last February.
In between those feats, Yulo, Obiena, and Eala also made their presence felt.
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 the 27-year-old Obiena, 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.
Eala, for her part, wrote her name in the country's record books 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.
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.