HIDILYN DIAZ-NARANJO and dozens other champions and heroes in the previous year step on centerstage for the 2022 San Miguel Corp.-Philippine Sportswriters Association (SMC-PSA) Annual Awards Night Monday at the grand ballroom of the Diamond Hotel.
The country’s first Olympic gold medalist Diaz-Naranjo will be the star of the night as she lifts the prestigious Athlete of the Year trophy for the second straight time in the Awards Night staged annually by the oldest media organization in the Philippines headed by its president, Tempo sports editor Rey Lachica.
Diaz, 31, leads the honor roll made up of close to 100 awardees with the late athletics great Lydia De Vega posthumously receiving a well-deserved nook in the PSA Hall of Fame and her fellow track and field queen Elma Muros-Posadas receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Former Project: Gintong Alay executive director Michael Keon, current mayor of Laoag City, will be one of the special guests as he personally reminisces the glory days when De Vega and Muros-Posadas were the toast of Philippine, Southeast Asian and Asian athletics.
Other bigwigs led by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Richard Bachmann and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino will grace the formal affair that will also honor rising tennis star Alex Eala with the President’s Award and Olympians EJ Obiena, Carlos Yulo and Carlo Paalam and the Philippine women’s football team and 11 others with Major Awards in their respective sports.
Veteran sportscaster Sev Sarmenta and lovely sports journalist and host Rizza Diaz will anchor the gala night presented by the PSC and Cignal TV and ably backed by the POC, Tagaytay City Mayor Tolentino, Milo, Smart, MVP Sports Foundation, Rain or Shine, 1Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, Philippine Basketball Association, OKBet, International Container Terminal Services Inc. and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
The other special awards are the Executive of the Year (Tolentino), National Sports Association of the Year (Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas), Mr. Basketball (Scottie Thompson), Ms. Football (Sarina Bolden) and the Milo Champion of Grit and Glory award (Diaz).
Citations will also be handed out to the gold medal winners in the Vietnam 31st Southeast Asian Games, Tony Siddayao Awards, PSA Special Awards and the Lifetime Award in sports journalism.
A tribute for De Vega and a host of other athletes, officials and personalities who passed away last year will also be honored in a tribute.
The Athlete of the Year award is the fourth in the last seven years for Diaz since she clinched a weightlifting silver medal in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
Diaz-Naranjo owns the most number of Athletes of the Year Award. Legendary athletes Manny Pacquiao, Luisito Espinosa, Nonito Donaire Jr in boxing, Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno and Olivia “Bong” Coo in bowling, De Vega and Efren “Bata’ Reyes in billiards won the award at least thrice.