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Athletes of the Year

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - February 4, 2021 - 12:00am

In a viral and virtual year that was, a few Filipino athletes stood out in a world that stood still. Male athlete of the year accolade still goes to gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo for ending the year on top of the world rankings in floor exercise. Last year, this column picked him for the top honors after he stunned international gymnastics with an exquisite, unprecedented golden performance in the floor exercise at the world championships the other year. He has since qualified for Tokyo to become the country’s brightest hope for that elusive Olympic gold.

Another Filipino ranked number one in his discipline is martial artist James De Los Santos, e-Kata champion who beat a Guinness record holder and the first player to breach the 26-point mark. Whatever that means, it sounds great just the same.

Bantamweight Reymart Gaballo eked out a split decision to win an interim world title that by its name is uncertainty foretelling. It was too close and controversial he is ordered to fight a grudge rematch against his Puerto Rican rival.

 In the distaff side however, a blooming teenager is certain about her booming. Tennis prodigy Alex Eala is female athlete of the year. The young charmer broke through with a grand slam girls’ doubles title in the Australian Open early last year. But for a demanding crowd, the crown glittered only half the prestige, she had to share it with her Indonesian partner.

She could do it on her own too, without a partner, much less government support. Alex reached a career-best semifinals berth at the French Open girl’s singles, earning points to install her world second best in the junior league. This year she successfully transitioned into the women’s pro circuit, winning an ITF title. Not a WTA title, but an international title just the same.

At a blue oval meet in a country that now accounts for a quarter of world corona infection, Fil-Am sprinter Kristina Marie Knott timed 11.27seconds in the 100meter dash to finish second, but faster by a hundredth of a second than Lydia de Vega’s three-decade old national and regional record of 11.28s.

With her 23.01s at twice the distance, KK now owns both sprint records, but has to run faster by at least a couple of strides to meet Olympic qualifying standards of 11.15s and 22.80s. Recently she has, dashing to 7.32s in the 60m indoors, again faster than de Vega’s 7.37s national record. Lydia’s records stood for so long, but Knott that long.

 If Kristina qualifies, flyweight Irish Magno will have a sister for company in Tokyo. If it is not the fastest Filipina, it is the strongest. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz no less, who won a world weightlifting competition online. Diaz needs to enter one more tournament to qualify, regardless of how strong she tries.

   Then there is Cebuana Margielyn Didal, ranked among world best in women’s skateboarding. The stunt wonder won bronze at the first-ever women’s Open Skate Tampa in Florida and snatched silver in the virtual edition of the Madrid Urban Sports tournament.

 Bravo. These athletes trained in obscurity, triumphed despite adversity for an ungrateful country, crowning it with glory while it was busy avoiding the crown of gory, heroes who should be honored more than some people called honorable.

CARLOS EDRIEL YULO
Philstar
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