The Philippine Sportswriters Association has many candidates to choose from this year, a marker of the talent among Filipino athletes.
Every year, the Philippine Sportswriters Association holds its traditional Awards Night where they recognize the country’s top athletes with many different awards — the President’s Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Sports Association of the Year, Mr. Basketball, Ms. Volleyball, and Ms. Football, among others. But, the night’s biggest award is always the Athlete of the Year Award.
Many Filipino sports legends have received the Athlete of the Year Award in the PSA’s long history, including icons such as Manny Pacquiao, Paeng Nepomuceno, Nonito Donaire, and Hidilyn Diaz. Who might get to join these big names after this year?
The jury is still out. But one thing is certain: the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) has their work cut out for them this year.
2023 has been a banner year for Philippine sports. Many major sports competitions took place all in the same year — the Southeast Asian Games, the Asian Games, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the FIBA World Cup, and several others — and not only did Filipino athletes represent the country in these tournaments, but many of them came home as success stories.
But which success story will be named Athlete of the Year? These are the leading candidates so far.
The Sports Heroes of 2023
The Asian Games may have been the biggest international multi-sport event of the year, and the Philippines closed the event with their highest-placing finish in 29 years. This is quite the achievement, largely thanks to the Philippines’ four gold medalists.
EJ Obiena won the gold in the men’s pole vault tournament in the Asian Games, and he is arguably the most promising candidate for the award. On top of his Asiad gold, he also jumped to World No. 2 in the men’s pole vault rankings, qualified for the Olympics, and broke into the exclusive six-meter club.
Two-time Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Meggie Ochoa and three-time SEA Games gold medalist Annie Ramirez are also in the running for Athlete of the Year for their gold medals in the jiu-jitsu events in the Asian Games. These two ladies have been proving their strength on the mat for several years now, winning medals in many international competitions, and are highly deserving of the spotlight.
Of course, Filipinos would be hard-pressed to forget Gilas Pilipinas’ historic gold medal in the Asian Games, highlighted by their huge upset over China, which pushed them to the top of Asian basketball after six decades.
But, of course, the PSA will not be using the Asian Games results as their only measure of success for 2023. Another major event from this year was the FIFA Women’s World Cup, where the Filipinas not only made their debut but fought hard to take a 1-0 upset over the host squad, New Zealand. Sarina Bolden’s goal was the first World Cup goal for the Philippines, making her another standout candidate. In addition, Olivia McDaniel’s countless stunning saves were also a huge contributor to the Filipinas’ memorable debut.
These are just some of the names in the running for the 2023 Athlete of the Year Award. To have these many athletes achieve historic things in just one year is a true marker of the growth of Philippine sports in recent years.
Who do you think is most deserving of the title Athlete of the Year?
Banner images from Meggie Ochoa, Annie Ramirez, FIFA Women’s World Cup, EJ Obiena, and PSC.