A young tennis prodigy and two world champions comprise the shortlist of major awardees to be recognized during the SMC-PSA (Philippine Sportswriters Association) virtual Awards Night two weeks from now.
Alex Eala and boxing world titleholders Johnriel Casimero and Pedro Taduran made it to the 2020 honor roll of the country’s oldest media organization headed by president Tito Talao, sports editor of the Manila Bulletin.
The traditional Awards Night, being held virtually for the first time in PSA history, will be on 27 March at the TV5 Media Center and co-presented by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Cignal TV, with 1-Pacman Partylist and Rain or Shine as major backers.
Lady golfer Yuka Saso is the consensus choice as 2020 Athlete of the Year, an award solely bestowed by the 72-year-old media group.
Eala, 15, was among the few bright spots for Philippine sports during the pandemic after bagging her maiden grand slam juniors title by winning the Australian Open girls’ doubles tournament together with Indonesian partner Priska Madelyn Nugroho, beating the pair of Slovenian Ziza Falkner and Britain’s Matilda Mutavdzic in the final.
The charming teener later reached the semifinals of the French Open girls singles but lost to hometown bet Elsa Jacquemot.
Her strong showing in both grand slam tournaments had the Filipina netter rising to as high as no. 2 in the girls’ junior rankings by the end of the year.
A full scholar at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain, Eala has since turned pro and campaigning in various meets around Europe that allowed her to achieve a current WTA singles ranking of 763.
Like Eala, Casimero also made noise last year by successfully retaining his World Boxing Organization bantamweight title against Duke Micah of Ghana at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Originally set to duke out with unbeaten Japanese champion Naoya Inoue in a title unification match, the 31-year-old pride of Ormoc saw his dream match went up in smoke after it was twice postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
Micah, a last-minute replacement, then bore the brunt of Casimero’s wrath as the Filipino destroyed the 2012 Olympian in just three rounds to defend his 118-pound belt.
Taduran likewise kept his International Boxing Federation minimumweight crown as he settled for a fourth-round technical draw against Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares in Guadalupe, Mexico shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19.