The top 10 Asian American sports figures of 2010

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

1: Manny Pacquiao (Photo by Bret Newton) 2: Apolo Anton Ohno (Photo by Ivan Sekretarev/AP) 3: Rich Cho 4: J.R. Celski 5: Julie Chu 6: Jeremy Lin 7: Ed Wang 8: Nonito Donaire (Photo by Larry Burton) 9: Tim Lincecum 10: Zhaira Costiniano (Photo from www.zhairacostiniano.com)

2010 was another great year for sports. We saw big international events such as the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. We saw the return of Tiger Woods to golf and the continued dominance of Manny Pacquiao in boxing.

Locally, the Mariners had a disappointing season as hopes of a World Series were quickly dashed and Don Wakamatsu was let go midway through the season. Former University of Southern California head football coach, Pete Carroll, began his first year as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. The University of Washington football team will be going to its first bowl game since 2002. On the women’s side, the University of Washington softball team made it back to the College World Series. Lastly, the Seattle Storm claimed its second WNBA title.

There were landmark firsts in the NFL and NBA. Ed Wang became the first Chinese American to be drafted in the NFL. Harvard University guard Jeremy Lin became the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. In addition, former Sonics executive, Rich Cho, was chosen to be the general manager for the Portland Trailblazers. Cho is the first Asian American general manager in the NBA.

The following is a list of the top sports figures from 2010:

1. Manny Pacquiao

OK, so the Pac Man isn’t Asian American, but I couldn’t resist giving him a nod, as he was the most impressive Asian athlete of the year. He won both of his fights this year in a dominating fashion.

Additionally, he was elected to the House of Representatives in the Philippines Congress, representing his province of Sarangani. He was chosen as the 2010 World Boxing Organization Fighter of the Year.

Last year, he was named Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Decade. His next fight will take place on May 7 against an opponent that is yet to be determined.

2. Apolo Anton Ohno

Ohno made history this year when he became the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time. He earned a total of eight medals in short track speed skating. In Vancouver, Ohno won a silver and two bronze medals in short track events.

3. Rich Cho

A former Seattle Supersonics intern, Cho moved with the Sonics to Oklahoma City, where he assisted in the turnaround of the former Sonics franchise. Cho was named the Portland Trailblazers’ general manager this summer by owner Paul Allen. Cho is the first Asian American general manager in NBA history.

4. J.R. Celski

Celski won two bronze medals at this year’s Winter Olympics in short track speed skating. Growing up in Federal Way, he learned on inline skates. The 20-year-old was turned onto speed skating after watching the 2002 Winter Olympics. Celski’s mother is Filipino, and his father is Polish.

5. Julie Chu

Chu is the first Asian American to play on the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Chu attended Harvard University, where she played hockey and became the all-time leading scorer in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history. In 2007, she won the award for best female collegiate hockey player. During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Chu scored two goals and recorded four assists in five games. The U.S. Women’s team won the silver medal in Vancouver.

6. Jeremy Lin

When I chose him for my top 10 last year, no one knew his name. Now, Lin is the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. Lin went undrafted after a stellar career at Harvard University. However, his exceptional play in NBA’s summer league led to signing with his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors. His replica jersey went on sale to the public prior to the NBA season, something unheard of for an undrafted rookie. Although Lin plays sporadically for the Warriors, he has a cult following, largely due to his Asian heritage.

7. Ed Wang

Wang, an offensive lineman from Virginia Tech, was chosen in the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. He is the first Chinese American to play in the NFL. Recently, he spoke with Chinese sports journalists about the NFL as part of a program to market American football in China.

8. Nonito Donaire

Donaire is the best Filipino boxer in the world, next to Manny Pacquiao. The 28-year-old, known as “The Filipino Flash,” has 25 wins and one loss. He fights in the Bantamweight (118 pounds) division.

Donaire lost his second fight and reeled off 24 straight wins. He won all three of his fights this year by knockout. Born in the Philippines, Donaire relocated to California with his family when he was a child.

9. Tim Lincecum

The two-time Cy Young winner was a key figure during the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victory over the Texas Rangers. He won two World Series games for the Giants. He is half Filipino.

10. Zhaira Constiniano

Zhaira Constiniano is a 15-year-old Filipino American teenage ice skater who will compete for the Philippines at the 2011 Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan. A native of Texas, the 9th grader is the youngest ever Filipino Senior Ladies Figure Skating champion. After the Asian Winter Games, she will compete at the 2011 World Junior Figure Skating Championship in Korea. Constiniano’s family and friends fund her international travel to competitions. Her dream is to be the first women’s figure skater to represent the Philippines in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.  ♦

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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