By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Golfer Yuka Saso kept it short and simple, while Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Butch Ramirez and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino encouraged everyone to “live the moment” during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards Night held online Saturday.
The 19-year-old Saso, recipient of the Athlete of the Year Award for the second time, thanked the organization for recognizing her endearing exploits that saw her earn almost P50 million in her rookie year.
“Thank you PSA for recognizing me again as your Athlete of the Year,” she said in a short video message from Japan where she is based.
“It’s really a big honor for me and my family.”
In the midst of pandemic last year, Saso continued to bring glory to the country with two victories in her rookie campaign in the LPGA of Japan Tour – the NEC Karuizawa Championship and the Nitori Ladies Golf Tournament.
She also landed 13th in her first LPGA championship in the US Open last December, and is currently in the running to earn a berth in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic with a ranking inside the Top 25.
Saso also vowed to provide more inspiration to Philippine sports in the light of the mounting challenges it face brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Patuloy po akong magbibigay ng karangalan sa ating bansa. Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino,” said the 19-year-old Saso.
Meanwhile, Ramirez lauded the efforts of athletes and coaches in pushing through their goals despite the global health crisis.
“The past year has not been kind for sports, but there are extraordinary athletes and sports personalities who still keep their stars shining even brighter during these dark times,” said Ramirez, who is the event’s guest speaker in the event sponsored by San Miguel Corporation, PSC, Cignal, 1-Pacman Partylist, Chooks-to-Go and Rain or Shine.
“The future is so uncertain; the past is out of reach. So I wish we all savor the present because here, we find ourselves now, with family, with friends celebrating our heroes in sports.”
Tolentino, who received the President’s Award, also thanked the organization for recognizing his efforts both as a POC chief and as a government official.
As Tagaytay City Representative, Tolentino pushed for the additional financial assistance for athletes and coaches through the Bayanihan Act 2.
“Sa inyo (PSA) patuloy ko pong susuklian ang magandang pamamalakad na palakisan ang sports industry sa ating bansa. Inaaalay ko ang parangal na ito sa mga athletes at coaches bilang karagdangang inspirasyon sa panahon ngayon,” Tolentino said.
Mark Cojuangco also shared the spotlight as he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed to his late father, avid sportsman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.
“We would like to express our extreme appreciation to the PSA for your recognition for dad’s dedication, effort and sacrifice in his passion to help Philippine sports,” the younger Cojuangco said.
“He enjoyed being an enabler, a tool to be used to bring out the best from the individuals, teams and organization. I’m sure many missed my dad. We do, too. But dad would not be happy if we all did not move on and pick up the pieces,” said Mark.
“I’m sure he is up there looking down at us, exhorting us all to bigger greatness. Our successes would be his greater joy. Our efforts and struggles to improve, his happiness and entertainment.”