Yuka Saso and EJ Obiena were named athletes of the year in the first Inquirer Sports Awards on Thursday, with Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Willie Marcial also cornering an award as the previous year’s top executive.
Saso and Obiena won Guyito trophies, named so after the Inquirer’s official mascot, in the event that honors the top male and female performers of 2020 based on specific performances during the year.
“I promise to keep trying my best to bring glory to the Philippines,” said Saso in an acceptance video shot in Japan, where she is currently based as she prepares for her second season in the Japan LPGA.
Saso won the Guyito for her victory in the Nitori Ladies golf tournament, which was her second straight victory in the Japan Tour that put her in the headlines. She edged out tennis ace Alex Eala’s French Open junior semifinal run, trackster Kristina Knott’s breaking of legend Lydia de Vega’s long-standing record, Irish Magno’s Olympic-qualifying win in the Asian boxing championships and Vanessa Sarno’s three-gold haul in the weightlifting world cup.
Obiena also beat a field that was as diverse as the one Saso emerged on top of. The country’s top pole vaulter, also an Olympic qualifier, ruled the World Athletics Continental Tour in Ostrava, Czech Republic, beating two Olympic champions, including reigning king Thiago Braz, and then reigning world champion Sam Kendricks.
“It’s been tough [competing during a pandemic] for everyone but really, I’m lucky to be able to do what I love to do during this time,” Obiena said in a video message filmed during a break in a competition in Poland, his latest stop in a European competition tour. “Thank you very much for appreciating my efforts.”
In grabbing the Guyito, Obiena nipped Karate star James de los Santos, who became the world No. 1 in e-kata, Barangay Ginebra’s La Tenorio, who bucked pretournament surgery to become Finals Most Valuable Player, and Eumir Marcial, who was nominated for his Olympic-clinching performance in the Asian boxing championships.
Marcial was named Decision-maker of the year for his handling of the PBA bubble. Among those he edged were Rep. Abraham Tolentino, who assumed the presidency of the Philippine Olympic Committee and worked to expand the budget for national athletes, Baham Mitra, the Games and Amusements Board chair who drew the line between amateur and professional sports in the country, and Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, who also successfully staged the Philippines Football League bubble.
“This award also belongs to the PBA board and team owners who worked so hard to help us succeed [with the bubble],” Marcial said.
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone was honored with the Quote of the Year trophy while water polo’s playing assistant coach Dale Evangelista was feted as the previous year’s top humanitarian among athletes.
The event was broadcast by the Inquirer’s Facebook page and can still be viewed there.
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