Weightlifter Angel San Nicolas’ bronze medal win in last year’s Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu earned him the 2017 Northern Marianas Sports Association Male Athlete of the Year award.
Repeat winners Zarinae Sapong and Carol Lee, and Ji Min Woo joined San Nicolas on NMSA’s athletes honor roll and all four were recognized during the 2017 NMSA Annual Sports Banquet last night at the Hibiscus Hall of Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan. Sapong was selected as the Female Athlete of the Year, while Woo and Lee were named the Tan Siu Lin Foundation/NMSA Male and Female Student Athletes of the Year.
It was Sapong’s second straight award, while Lee, who spent most of 2017 competing off-island in the Junior International Tennis Federation Circuit, earned her third straight and fourth overall student plum. Woo got his first.
San Nicolas also earned the recognition for the first time after winning the bronze in the men’s 94-kilogram division. He gave the CNMI its first medal in a Pacific Games-organized event since the Commonwealth took the baseball gold in 2011 in New Caledonia.
San Nicolas said that he was surprised to win the Male Athlete of the Year award, but at the same time was happy that athletes like him are being recognized.
“I was really surprised because honestly, I wasn’t thinking of winning the athlete of the year award. I just came here since it’s a banquet and thought about the food,” San Nicolas said with a laugh. But seriously, getting the award was a bonus for me since I have no goal or plan of winning this. I train to represent the CNMI and make our islands proud. I work hard so I could compete and improve myself.”
Sapong made it back-to-back after her impressive performance in the 16th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in London, United Kingdom. Resetting her personal best time in the 100m run served as the highlight of her London trip. She ran on Heat 6 at the London Olympic Stadium and shaved off 0.06 milliseconds from her old PBT (13.35 seconds) after clocking in at 13.29.
Woo spent 10 months at the ITF Regional Training Center in Fiji with the Pacific Oceania touring team and competed in the 2017 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships and the Australian National Championship.
“I’m really surprised, but happy that my hard work was recognized. Being at the training center in Fiji was a difficult time for me since I was away from my family for a long time. I always get home sick and think about them,” Woo said.
Lee was also off-island the most part of 2017, as she competed in Asia, Pacific, Oceania, and Africa and won two doubles and one singles Junior ITF titles. Her successful campaign in the circuit put her at No. 208 in the world rankings in August 2017 and No. 212 at the end of the season.
The CNMI junior player did not make it to last night’s banquet as she is currently in the training center in Fiji, but sent a message to Saipan Tribune a few hours before she was named as Female Student Athlete of the Year.
“Receiving the award is an honor. It’s unexpected but I am proud of this achievement. I have been working hard and there are times when things get tough but I am focused on my goals,” Lee said. “It feels good when people recognized you. Even though I’m away from my country, I always represent the CNMI with pride.”