MANILA, December 17, 2003  (STAR) World champions CJ Suarez and Manny Pacquiao have been chosen Athletes of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) following their excellent campaigns overseas that highlighted a fantastic year which could rival any other.

World Cup of bowling winner Suarez and International Boxing Federation superbantam (122-pound) king Pacquiao have been voted by the PSA membership to share the ultimate award in Philippine sports, which saw tremendous performances from various other athletes that made choosing the awardees easy and difficult at the same time.

The women’s trios of Liza del Rosario, Liza Clutario and Cecilia Yap, who made history by becoming the first Asians to win a gold medal in the World Tenpin Bowling Championships in September in Malaysia, will be accorded the PSA President’s Award.

In the same vein, the Bacolod girls’ softball team, champion of the Junior League World Series in the US, has been picked for the Antonio Siddayao Award, named after the man considered one of the best Filipino sportswriters.

These athletes, and many others who made 2003 a banner year, will be feted on Jan. 9, the second Friday of 2004, during the PSA’s Annual Awards Night at the Manila Pavillion.

The Annual Awards Night is sponsored by Red Bull and Agfa Color and supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Basketball Association, San Miguel Corp., Samsung, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and sports patron Hermie Esguerra.

Pacquiao was perfect in three fights this year. He defended his title in July by knocking out Mexican Manuel Lucero in Los Angeles, three months after decking Kazakh Serikzhan Yeshmanbetov in a non-title fight in Manila.

But his well-documented, if most profitable, victory came in November, when he moved up in weight and beat the biggest name in the 126-pound class, Mexican Antonio Barrera, in a fight which saw the Filipino’s popularity here and in the US rocket.

Pacquiao raised his record to 38-2-1, and earned millions that summed up to just a single digit: Number 1.

Suarez won the World Cup, a feat only one other Filipino, Paeng Nepomuceno, has achieved in the Cup’s 39-year history.

The 24-year-old did the trick in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, against a field from nearly 80 countries, defeating the defending champion from Finland, the tournament’s No.2 seed from Belgium and the top-seeded player from the Netherlands en route to scaling the Mount Olympus of bowling tournaments.

Together with Jojo Cañare, Suarez also won the Best Performance by a country in the World Cup—an achievement not even Guinness record-holder Nepomuceno has had the distinction of winning.

This feat, on top of his day job as info-tech consultant, his taking up his masters degree and his role as the spokesperson for Special Olympics Philippines, leaves little to doubt that the post-Nepomuceno era is in good hands.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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