ROGER CASUGAY earned the admiration of Southeast Asia last December. Now, it’s the world for the La Union surfer.
Casugay’s act of heroism when he saved an Indonesian rival from drowning thus imperiling his gold medal bid, clinched the 26-year-old one of the world’s most prestigious awards—the Pierre de Coubertin Act of Fair Play Award.
The award, named after the father of the Olympic Movement, is given annually since 1965 by the Comité International du Fair-Play (International Fair Play Committee), recognizes fair play carried out by athletes or teams.
Casugay is the first Filipino to receive the award and if the situation permits, he will be personally bestowed the title on Monaco in October.
Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William Ramirez, who was the country’s chef de mission to the 30th SEA Games, expressed pride over Casugay’s achievement.
“We are very proud of Roger because he has truly exemplified the true meaning of being a Filipino and a sportsman,” Ramirez said.
The International Surfing Association (ISA), through its Membership and Development Manager Alex Reynolds, informed the United Philippine Surfing Association (UPSA) on Tuesday of Casugay’s award.
“Above all, it is a more fulfilling achievement to be recognized for character than skills and achievements. It shows who we are as people and as a nation,” Ramirez added.
“It is nice to recognize an athlete not only for his athletic skills but also for his humanity,” UPSA President Dr. Jose Raul Canlas said. “Holding surfing during the SEA Games is a milestone. It paved the way for the ISA to recognize the region and allowed Roger to be also recognized.”
The heroic didn’t go to naught as Casugay went on to win the men’s longboard gold.
According to Ramirez, the award shows that beyond the country’s domination of the SEA Games, the values which the youth and the people learned were part of the Games’ legacies.
“Seven months after the Games, we are still feeling the pride that our national athletes achieved for the Filipino people. Truly, sports is an advocacy that keeps on giving,” Ramirez said.
Among the recipients of the award were Sergey Bubka (athletics), László Papp (boxing) and Miguel Indurain (cycling).
Surfing debuted in the SEA Games in San Juan, La Union, with Filipino athletes winning two gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
Casugay was the national team’s flag bearer of the host Philippines during the closing ceremony where he was bestowed the Games’ Fair Play Award at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.