MANILA, Philippines -- The country's top sports officials on Monday night paid tribute to the outstanding athletes, led by Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz, for making 2021 a golden year for Philippine sports.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William "Butch" Ramirez and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino were both honored by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) during its Annual Awards Night at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.
"Together we were a part of Philippine sports history. I share this award with all of you. For I cannot claim this one (award) alone. This award is not mine," said Ramirez, who received the PSA'S Excellence in Leadership Award that he shared with PSC commissioners Ramon Fernandez, Celia Kiram, Charles Maxey, and Eng. Arnold Agustin.
"One of the reasons that this night is extra special is that we are all celebrating the greatest sports achievement of the Filipino people, our first Olympic gold in Hidilyn Diaz. Coupled with the biggest Olympic medal haul in recent years," he added.
Diaz was honored as the PSA Athlete of the Year for the third time for giving the country its first Olympic gold medal, while boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial were also commended for winning medals in Tokyo.
"I am blessed to be given a chance to witness this milestone as one of the elders of these excellent Filipino athletes. Taos-pusong pasasalamat po," said Ramirez. "Let's sustain the Philippine sports momentum para sa ating bayan. Para sa ating kabataan. Let’s work together for better and successful Philippine sports."
Ramirez's sentiments were echoed by Tolentino, who was named the Executive of the Year by the PSA.
"This is not for me. This is for the 19 Tokyo Olympians. Para sa kanila ang award na ito, led by our gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Para sa kanila ito at hindi para sa 'kin," Tolentino stressed.
"Ito ay para sa mga atleta, coaches, and officials. Nagsisimula pa lang po tayo. Mahaba pa po ang ating tatahakin. We will move on. Maraming, maraming salamat sa inyong lahat," he added.
Diaz was given the organization's top prize for the third time in the last five years, having first won in 2017 after winning a silver in the Rio Olympics, and again in 2019 when she shared the Athlete of the Year honor with golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Loise Kay Go and street skateboarder Margielyn Arda Didal for their golden feat in the 2018 Asian Games.
Radiant in her golden gown and accompanied by coach and fiancé Julius Naranjo, Diaz expressed her gratitude at once again being given the highest honor by the country's oldest media organization.
"Naaala ko noon pangarap ko lang na makapunta dito sa PSA Awards. Nakikita ko sina Ate Marestella Torres (long jumper and former PSA Athlete of the Year Awardee). Little did I know… wala talagang impossible, 'no?" said Diaz.
"Ibig sabihin lang ito na walang imposible at kaya nating mga Pilipino na manalo ulit ng ginto sa Olympics. Kung nagawa ko, kaya ng iba pang Filipino athletes," she added.
"Sabi nila dati napakataas kong mangarap. Bakit hindi? Isa kaya na magandang bagay na libreng gawin ang mangarap. Kaya kung ikaw at tayong lahat patuloy lang mangarap."
Diaz also paid tribute to Team HD -- including Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen and Naranjo -- for making her dream a reality while also acknowledging the many challenges that she had to overcome en route to achieving her Olympic dream.
"Hindi pwedeng walang pagsubok kasi 'yon ang nagpapatibay sa atin. Okay lang ilang beses magkamali, ilang beses na matalo. Ang mahalaga ay natututo tayo at makabangon. Kayang-kaya natin ito na mas marami pang Pilipino na mananalo sa Olympics at makakuha ng ginto," she said.
"Laban atletang Pilipino, laban Pilipinas! Maraming salamat po."