Diaz, Yulo lead Inquirer Sports Awards winners
MANILA, Philippines–Hidilyn Diaz romped off with the female athlete of the year trophy as expected, highlighting the Inquirer Sports Awards Year 2 on Friday.
“Thank you for recognizing the effort, sacrifices, time and love that I gave to weightlifting and the Philippines,” Diaz said in a recorded message after winning the Best Performance by a Female Athlete award for her triumph in the Tokyo Olympics, which ended the country’s quest for a gold medal in the Summer Games.
“Let’s continue supporting all our national athletes who will compete this year,” added Diaz, who was one of two people honored by the Inquirer as Filipinos of the Year.
Diaz highlighted a year where female athletes shouldered the task of bringing glory to the country. And while she was the only unanimous winner in the awards, her fellow nominees were no less sterling in 2021: Yuka Saso won the Women’s US Open to become the only Filipino to rule a golf major, boxer Nesthy Petecio brought home a silver medal also from the Tokyo Olympics while weightlifter Vanessa Sarno became Asia’s junior and senior champion in her division after striking gold in the continental championships last year.
The Inquirer Sports Awards separates itself from other sports awards as its main awards zero in on an athlete’s specific performances and not a body of work for an entire year. This gives athletes equal opportunities to win major trophies, regardless of how many times they competed in the year.
‘You are heroes’
WATCH: The stage is set for the Inquirer Sports Awards 2022.
Carlos Yulo won the Best Performance by a Male Athlete trophy for his gold-winning performance in the gymnastics world championships, where he also came home with a silver medal. Yulo edged boxers Carlo Paalam (Tokyo Olympics silver medalist), Mark Magsayo (Knockout of the Year winner) and Nonito Donaire (oldest bantamweight champion) and pole vaulter EJ Obiena (Asian record) for the award.
“I just really do my best [in competition] and I’m thankful that [my efforts are] getting noticed,” Yulo said.
Saso and Obiena were the winners in the inaugural staging of the awards last year.
Sarno and Paalam, two of the night’s two-time nominees, did not go home empty-handed.
Sarno took home the Best Performance by a Junior Athlete for her Asian championship, where as a 17-year-old participant, she bested senior-level foes in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“I’m honored to be receiving this award,” said Sarno, tagged as Diaz’s heir apparent, from her hometown in Bohol. “Thank you for recognizing my effort, hard work and achievements and my love for this sport.”
Paalam, meanwhile, took home the Quote of the Year trophy for his emotional interview after winning silver in Tokyo.
“I came from scavengers, selling garbage scraps. [This medal] symbolizes my life because this came from broken gadgets. [This medal] came from garbage. It came from garbage … and it has a connection to my life,” the 23-year-old Paalam said in Filipino, his voice cracking during the interview.
The awards night was kicked off by a welcome speech from Philippine Daily Inquirer’s president and chief executive officer, lawyer Rudyard Arbolado.
“You are heroes,” Arbolado said in his message to the winners, adding: “You provided inspiration and shone a light for the country during these tough times.”
Bigger next year
The other winners included the duo of Gao Kaiwen and Julius Naranjo, who took home the Coach of the Year award after helping steer Diaz to glory in Tokyo.
Team Philippines, which basked in the most successful Olympic campaign with one gold, two silvers and one bronze medal, ran away with the Team of the Year trophy. Philippine Olympic Committee president represented Team Philippines and was also feted as one of two winners for the Sports Official of the Year trophy, along with weightlifting president Monico Puentevella.
Inquirer’s Connie Kalagayan, the AVP for corporate affairs of the Inquirer Foundation, the organization’s charity arm, and the executive director of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, honored volleyball star Cherry Rondina with the Humanitarian Award for her efforts in helping out those affected by Typhoon “Odette.”
“Her generosity, empathy and genuine care is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit,” Kalagayan said.
The Inquirer Sports Awards, hosted by the Inquirer’s multiawarded business journalist Dax Lucas and its lifestyle and pop culture multimedia journalist Pam Pastor, was held virtually for health and safety reasons. But Inquirer assistant sports editor Musong Castillo hinted of a bigger staging of the event next year.
“Join us next year as we celebrate the brilliance of the Filipino athlete once more for an even bigger and better Inquirer Sports Awards,” Castillo said in his closing speech.