Another year in sports gone by. One more year of thrilling victories and agonizing defeats.
Though 2016 sets itself apart from the rest, in that it is a year when adversity was at its most ruthless, but breakthroughs were even sweeter.
2016 was the year of historic comebacks, both in international and local sports. This year, the Rappler Sports team introduces its own sports awards – decided on after intense deliberations and analysis among its members – as a way to look back at the year that was in sports.
Through these awards, we honor the achievements of Filipino athletes and remember the iconic – and even questionable – moments of the past year.
Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section and tell us other athletes, teams, coaches, and sports moments that you think should also be remembered from 2016.
2016 Rising Star
After a solid year in which she had a massive role in the De La Salle Lady Spikers’ run to the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball title, Kim Dy is our choice for Rising Star.
The 21-year-old stepped up as a leader this past season and went on to bag the Finals MVP award for her impressive Game 3 finals performance of 17 points on 16 attacks.
The incoming fourth year spiker’s breakout season came just in time as veterans Ara Galang, Cyd Demecillo, and Mika Reyes had already graduated – Kim Fajardo is also still uncertain to return this upcoming season.
The Lady Spikers will defend their crown in Season 79 with Dy pegged as the new leader to spearhead them back to championship glory. (READ: Kim Dy envisions bright future as DLSU enters new era)
Other nominees: Chris Newsome (Meralco Bolts), Scottie Thompson (Barangay Ginebra), Isa Molde (UP Lady Maroons), Eduard Folayang
Comeback of the Year
It had never been done before in the 41-year history of the PBA – nor the NBA. Until 2016, until the San Miguel Beermen.
San Miguel completed a historic first-ever comeback from a 0-3 deficit against the Alaska Aces to win the 2016 Philippine Cup title. The Beermen’s feat was made even more remarkable by the fact that they did most of the heavylifting without then two-time MVP and big man June Mar Fajardo, who was sidelined by a knee injury and returned to play sparingly in Game 5 of the best-of-7 series.
(IN PHOTOS: San Miguel Beermen overcome the odds to win PH Cup title)
San Miguel survived two back-to-back overtime elimination games in the series and completed the turnaround in Game 7 with guard Chris Ross taking home the Finals MVP plum.
The Beermen win the award over the Adamson Soaring Falcons, who returned to the UAAP Final Four this Season 79 after 5 years of futility, and over Ara Galang’s comeback Season 78 from devastating ACL and MCL tears in her knee, as well as Manny Pacquiao’s coming-out-of-retirement victory over Jessie Vargas.
Other nominees: Adamson Soaring Falcons, Ara Galang (DLSU Lady Spikers), Manny Pacquiao
WTF Moment of the Year
This award goes to the most eyebrow-raising, face-scrunching sports-related moment of 2016. And there were quite a few.
But the Rappler Sports team chose the country’s boxing icon Manny Pacquiao winning a seat in the Senate. Pacquiao, 38, received plenty of criticism, especially on social media, about his qualifications from the time he filed for candidacy and to this day.
One of the biggest criticisms he’s dealing with is his decision to juggle his boxing career with his commitment to public service. 2016 was also the year Pacquiao was roasted for his comments on same-sex marraige.
It is worth noting that one of Pacquiao’s primary agendas is lifting the state of Philippine sports during his time, and he has since taken steps toward that.
(READ: Pacquiao tells PSC Chairman Ramirez: Clean up corruption in sports)
Other nominees: The James Yap for Paul Lee PBA trade, PBA special Gilas draft order secrecy, the Philippine Olympic Committee presidential elections, the PBA’s Rhose Montreal controversy
Iconic Moment of the Year
Of the local championships won this year, Justin Brownlee’s championship-winning three-pointer at the buzzer of Game 6 of the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup will go on to be the one people will talk about for years to come.
(WATCH: Justin Brownlee hits 3-pointer to clinch championship for Ginebra)
The import’s big shot delivered Barangay Ginebra out of mediocrity and into their first championship in 8 years, putting an end to the Meralco Bolts’ historic first PBA Finals appearance. It also gave the league’s winningest coach Tim Cone his 19th title.
What made it more special is the winning moment’s organic backdrop that developed in the moments leading up to it, as fans raised their flashlight-equipped smartphones into the air and dotted the dimly-lit domed ceiling of the Smart Araneta Coliseum with manmade stars.
(READ: Ginebra reaches summit, and they’re on to the next one)
The moment left many decades-long fans of the league’s – and possibly the country’s – most popular ballclub in tears, proving that in sports, anything can happen.
Other nominees: Hidilyn Diaz’s Rio Olympics podium moment, Alyssa Valdez’s final goodbye walk in the UAAP
Team of the Year
Nothing like living up to expectations and proving you’re no fluke.
The De La Salle University Green Archers were written as a championship-or-bust team with their loaded veteran lineup anchored by the highly anticipated debut of big man Ben Mbala.
True to form, the Archers dominated the UAAP in Season 79, with Mbala copping the Most Valuable Player award and the trophy back at Taft after a finals sweep of rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Jeron Teng was named Finals MVP for the second time before he left his collegiate career. The only thing La Salle didn’t achieve this year was a season sweep as Ateneo defeated them in the second round of eliminations. It was also the team’s only loss of the year.
La Salle went on to finish 2016 with an impressive 26-1 record in competition including the FilOil preseason tournament.
Other nominees: De La Salle Lady Spikers, San Miguel Beermen, UP Fighting Maroons men’s and women’s football teams
Coach of the Year
Franz Pumaren, the collegiate coaching genius.
Having carved his legend with La Salle from 1998 to 2009 – where he won 5 titles (6 counting the one rescinded in 2004), appeared in 3 other finals, and had a total 115-47 record before 2016 – Pumaren was naturally expected to lead the Adamson Soaring Falcons back to contender status.
(READ: Franz Pumaren: Adamson’s mission is to win a championship)
The swiftness with which he accomplished that only underscores his talent handling college basketball players.
Pumaren, 53, pulled together some talented players like Rookie of the Year runner-up Jerrick Ahanmisi and jolted Adamson straight to its first Final Four appearance in 5 years. They lost to eventual champion La Salle, his former team, in the semis but they remain on track for a bright future of gunning for UAAP championships with their young core.
(READ: Living a dream: Pumaren’s vision for Adamson accelerates)
Other nominees: Tim Cone (Barangay Ginebra), Leo Austria (San Miguel Beermen), Freddie Roach (Manny Pacquiao), Ramil de Jesus (DLSU Lady Spikers)
Athlete of the Year
As the first Filipino athlete to snap a brutal 20-year Olympic medal drought for the Philippines, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz is our unanimous pick as Athlete of the Year for 2016.
(READ: Rappler’s profile of Hidilyn Diaz before the Rio Olympics)
Diaz, 25, won the silver medal in the women’s 53-kg weightlifting division of the Rio Olympics this past August, making her the first first Filipino female athlete to win an Olympic medal.
The Zamboanga City native finally broke through on her third trip to the Games. Her feat also makes her the first Filipino to medal in weightlifting, and the first non-boxer from the Philippines to win a medal since 1936.
Diaz was initially supposed to win the bronze but was bumped up to silver after China’s favored bet failed to clear a lift in the clean and jerk part of the competition.
Diaz’s triumph ramped up support for Filipino athletes and calls for improvement in Philippine sports, especially as national teams gear up for next year’s Southeast Asian Games.
Other nominees: Alyssa Valdez (Ateneo Lady Eagles), Yan Lariba (table tennis and PH flag bearer, Rio Olympics), Janelle Mae Frayna (PH’s first Woman Chess Grandmastser), Josephine Medina (Rio Paralympics bronze medalist)
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated Kim Dy’s age as 25 years old. She is 21 years old. We regret the error.
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