■ Ofelia C. Empian
The annual San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards honored six Cordilleran athletes for their outstanding achievement in their respective sports in the past year on Jan. 29 at Diamond Hotel Manila.
Cordilleran athletes joined other 2023 Southeast Asian Games gold medalists in the recognition awards list, including Jason Balabal for wrestling, Kurt Barbosa for taekwondo, Crisamuel Delfin for arnis and Jean Claude Saclag and Claudine Veloso, both for kickboxing.
Asia’s first Spartan Champion Sandi Menchi Abahan was also recognized as part of the Philippine obstacle course racing team alongside teammates Mecca Cortizano, Tess Nocyao, and Mhik Tejares.
The OCR women’s group raised the country’s flag upon bagging the gold medal during the women’s team relay of the SEA Games in Cambodia last year.
Also recognized during the event was the Filipinas, the Philippines women’s national football team, that was given the special award “Golden Lady Booters” for their historic first appearance at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
One of its members is 30-year-old midfielder Jaclyn Sawicki, who traces her roots through her mother to Buguias, Benguet.
She was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada with her mother Mina Olting Demis Sawicki from Cabuguiasan, Natubleng, Buguias and Polish father Watsic Sawicki.
A total of 140 individual athletes, sports groups, and sports officials were recognized during the awards night for their contribution in the growth of Philippine sports in 2023.
Leading the awardees is world’s number two pole vaulter EJ Obiena, hailed as the Athlete of the Year for setting an Asian record by clearing six meters and winning silver in the World Athletics Championships.