By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
YOUNG and breakthrough athletes will get their share of the spotlight at the Annual Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards Night on March 6 at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel.
Tennis phenom Alex Eala, gymnastics gold medal winner Daniela dela Pisa, future grandmaster Daniel Quizon and ace swimmer Miguel Barreto are to be conferred the Milo Junior Athletes of the Year award.
It is in recognition of their exemplary performance in their respective fields which brought not only individual recognition for them but also pride to the country.
Eala, 14, made tennis history for the country after winning the 2020 Australian Open Juniors women’s doubles title along with Indonesian partner Priska Nugroho.
The two beat the pair of Ziva Falkner of Slovenia and Matilda Mutavdzic of the United Kingdom in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2 to win the title.
Eala’s historic run and her strong performance in the singles’ competition gave her a total of 1,718.75 points to catapult her to fourth in the world currently from a previous career-best ninth.
With her steady ascent in the rankings, Eala is expected to be able to compete and see more action in high-level women’s tournaments in her bid to further improve her game.
Dela Pisa, meanwhile, provided one of the feel-good stories and standout moments in the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country hosted in December.
The 16-year-old Cebu native bagged a gold in the hoop final of the women’s rhythmic gymnastics competition of the recent biennial meet. It was the only gold produced by Filipino gymnasts outside of the two won by Olympic-bound Carlos Yulo (artistic all-around and floor).
Making her feat more impressive was the fact that when she was four years old Dela Pisa survived ovarian cancer and continued to pursue her passion for the sport.
Apart from a gold medal, she also won a pair of bronze in the rhythmic ball and clubs, respectively, at the SEA Games.
After winning gold in the U16 standard competition of the Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championships in Bangkok in August, 14-year-old Quizon earned an International Master title.
He was likewise the best-placed Filipino in the blitz side event of the Asian Continental Chess Championship in China in June where he toppled three Grandmasters in Wan Yunquo and Liu Yan of China, along with Venkataraman Karthik of India.
Quizon is the youngest in the top 20 Filipino chess players in the country today.
Barreto, meanwhile, distinguished himself as the most bemedalled athlete in last year’s Palarong Pambansa by winning a total of seven gold medals in anchoring the National Capital Region’s dominance over at the pool.
The 16-year-old pride of Malolos, Bulacan highlighted the feat by shattering the record in the boys’ 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.
He was also part of the Philippine swimming team, which advanced to the men’s 400-meter freestyle in the SEA Games.