BOXING champions Nonito Donaire Jr. and Donnie “Ahas” Nietes, and golf prodigy Miguel Tabuena shared the limelight on Saturday after being named Athletes of the Year in the annual Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards at the One Esplanade in Pasay City.
Donaire, who made a sensational comeback into the ring last year with three convincing victories after a painful setback in 2014, thanked the sportswriters for the honor bestowed on him.
“The PSA has always given me inspiration and the spirit that I need to take home the prize,” Donaire said in his acceptance speech. “Let us all be great and become an inspiration to one another.”
Nietes, the longest-reigning Filipino boxing champion, puts his name in the history of the sport after withstanding all his rivals and defending his World Boxing Organization light-flyweight crown since 2004.
“Sana marami pang athletes ang mapili next year. Salamat sa award na ito,” Nietes said in the event, attended by top sports officials and presented by the Philippine Sports Commission as the major sponsor.
The 21-year-old Tabuena, who won the 2016 Anvaya Cove Inviational in Bataan earlier that day, made an impact in 2015 after bagging the 2015 Philippine Open.
“To share the stage with two boxing icons is an amazing feeling. I hope to not let you down,” Tabuena said.
The PSA Awards, supported by National University, One Esplanade, Rain or Shine, GlobalPort, the Philippine Basketball Association, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philracom, Sen. Francis Escudero, SM Prime Holdings, Maynilad, MVP Foundation and Smart, also honored several institutions and personalities that had significant contributions in sports last year.
The President’s Award was given to Gilas Pilipinas for its silver-medal finish in the 2015 International Basketball Federation Asia Championship, while Alaska top honcho Wilfred Uytengsu Jr. was named the Executive of the Year award for his continued support to local athletes.
“We dedicate our sports program to all the athletes that gave honor to the country. We’ll keep pushing hard and inspire more Filipinos,” Uytengsu said.
Also feted were Filomeno “Boy” Codiñera (Lifetime Achievement Award), the Wushu Federation of the Philippines (NSA of the Year), cowinners Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva (Mr. Basketball) and Alyssa Valdez (Ms. Volleyball).
Major awardees were June Mar Fajardo (pro basketball), Mac Belo and Mark Cruz (amateur basketball), Eric Cray (athletics), Amaya Paz-Cojuangco (archery), Chezka Centeno (billiards), Santy Barnachea (cycling), Cyna Rodriguez (pro golf), Princess Superal (amateur golf), Jonathan Hernandez (horseracing), Raniel Resuello (motorsports), Katharina Lehnert (tennis), AJ Lim (tennis), Divine Wally (wushu) and Arner Mandal (wushu).
The PSA also cited the Southeast Asian Games and Asean Para Games gold medalists and handed the posthumous awards to sports heroes that included former national team mentor Ron Jacobs, PBA legend Lim Eng Beng and sports patron Enrique “Henry” Cojuangco Sr.
The Milo Junior Athletes of the Year award was also given to taekwondo jin Justine Kobe Macario and swimmer Kyla Soguilon.
“Thank you for all your support to Philippine sports. The PSA is doing its job well,” PSA President Riera Mallari of The Standard said.