MANILA – Southeast Asian Games surfing champion and hero Roger Casugay earned the distinction as the "Athlete of the Month" for December by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS).
Casugay, who was hailed by the international surfing community for his heroic act, captured one of the two gold medals in surfing competitions of the recent 30th SEA Games held at the Monalisa Point in San Juan, La Union Province.
The 25-year-old Filipino champion bagged the gold in the men’s longboard category with a score of 14.50 in the overall round, only three points ahead of compatriot Rogelio "Jay-R" Esquivel Jr.
But Casugay made newspaper headlines and went viral in various social media sites for his heroic effort in saving his Indonesian opponent Arip Nurhidayat whose leash was detached from the surfboard during the competition. Unmindful of the battle for the gold, Casugay came to the rescue after observing that the Indonesian was getting hit by big waves.
"It was truly a class act by Casugay," said TOPS president Ed Andaya of People's Tonight.
"Like many other outstanding athletes who excelled during the SEA Games in this merry month of December, Casugay made all of us proud to be Filipinos," added Andaya following deliberations with TOPS officers and members.
Andaya said that no less than Indonesian President Joko Widodo took to Twitter to express his appreciation for Casugay and his heroic effort "to save an Indonesian athlete from falling in the middle of the SEA Games 2019 men's longboard event".
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) William "Butch" Ramirez also personally picked Casugay to serve as the Philippines' flag bearer in the SEAG closing ceremonies at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium last Dec. 11 in appreciation of his sportsmanship.
“The SEA Games are not only about medals. It is about character, resilience, love for one another and shoring up the faith of the person next to you, something that Casugay has exemplified,’’ said Ramirez.
Casugay was also hailed as the “Fair Play Athlete” of the biennial meet which the country hosted for the fourth time from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 this year.
Casugay earned the nods of the officers and members of the country's leading tabloids over a long list of athletes who distinguished themselves during the 12-day, 12-nation biennial competition.
Casugay will join an elite list of monthly winners of TOPS.
Past TOPS monthly awardees are Manny Pacquiao (January), Jasmin Mikaela Mojdeh (February), Natalie Uy (March), Ernest John Obiena (April), June Mar Fajardo (May), the Philippine Canoe Kayak and Dragon Boat Federation team (June), Obiena (July), Antonella Berthe Racasa (August), Obiena (September), Caloy Yulo (October) and Margielyn Didal (November).
TOPS is also the presentor of the “Usapang Sports”, a weekly forum held at the National Press Club and sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, National Press Club, PAGCOR, Community Basketball Association and HG Guyabano Tea Leaf Drink with livestreaming from Glitter Livestream. (PR)