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2023 GSPN ATHLETE OF THE YEAR IS MANAMI IIJIMA-MARTIN

Pro triathlete is first two-time winner

By Patrick Lujan

Pro triathlete Manami Iijima-Martin is the first two-time winner of the prestigious GSPN Athlete of the Year Award, easily winning the 2023 edition with a phenomenal year.

2023 GSPN Athlete of the Year: Manami Iijima-Martin

Iijima-Martin won the award in 2017 before she married cycling stud Jon Martin.

Her main focus this year was to participate and gather points towards qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. In order to do that, she had to compete in events off island.

And that she did, as Manami took to the international skies to represent Guam in New Zealand, Namibia (Africa), Philippines, Egypt, South Korea (twice), Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and finally Hong Kong, finishing the year strong in 2nd place in her last two triathlons.

“This award made us reflect on the past year. I travelled to 10 races abroad and two training camps, which totaled to more than four months away from home. I’ve had some great results being on the podium and also real lows where I didn’t get to the start line. It has been tough, but the most rewarding year I’ve had. The award and recognition came as a surprise and it reminded me of how hard we worked this year. Thank you and also to my team who support me every single day.”

– Two-time GSPN Athlete of the Year Manami Iijima-Martin

While she was on island, Manami won every event she entered: Koko Road Race 10k, Guam National Triathlon, Bank of Guam 5k and Community First Plumeria 5k. To say she’s on a whole different level is truly an understatement. And despite not having ‘world class’ facilities to train on island, you won’t hear a complaint coming out of her. She finds a way to get it done.

Manami Iijima-Martin begins her run after finishing the biking portion in the Guam National Triathlon Championship in September. (photo by Koto Blas)

Heading into 2024, Manami is in good position to reach her goal of qualifying for the Paris Games as she currently sits in the 161st world ranking. As long as she remains in the top 180 in the world by May 27, 2024 she should take the Oceania representation slot. She plans to do between 4-8 events before that so the outlook is good to live her dream of competing in the Olympic Games July-August 2024 in Paris.

Now 31 and in her sixth year as a professional, Manami seems to just be entering the peak of her athletic career, a career that spans almost 20 years since her swimming prowess at the 2006 Micronesian Games and multiple championships and medals since then leading up to 2024.

Congratulations Manami Iijima-Martin for becoming GSPN’s first ever two-time winner of the Athlete of the Year!

2023 AOY FINALISTS

Alex Sojo – FD quarterback MVP

Ben Borja – men’s basketball (Pacific Games 3×3 gold, 5×5 silver)

Brittney Pereda Wallace – Guam’s Strongest Woman

Elton Bautista – Guam’s Strongest Man

Ethan Elwell – Crossfit/powerlifting

Hugh Kent – Guam/JFK running

JJ Ambrose – MMA/fitness

Joe Greene – Arizona/Guam track & field sprinter

Kayna Kanemoto – Simon Sanchez volleyball MVP

Luck & Sage Cruz – youth soccer/jiu-jitsu/MMA

Men’s National Tennis Team – Pacific Games gold

Mia Lee – swimming (new Guam record)

Nicola Lagatao – Pacific Games weightlifting gold medalist

Rui Ventura – St. Paul volleyball MVP

Takumi Simon – Japan pro basketball

Wayne Blas – marathon runner (new Guam record)

PAST GSPN ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

2022 – JJ Ambrose (MMA/Fitness)

2021 – Trevin Jones (MMA/UFC)

2020 – None due to COVID

2019 – Anthony Cruz (Jiu-jitsu champion)

2018 – Alejandra Ada (D1 Rugby champion)

2017 – Manami Iijima (Professional Triathlete)

2016 – Baby Joe Taimanglo (MMA/Bellator)

2015 – Guam Men’s Basketball Team (Pacific Games Gold)

2014 – Eddie ‘Barefoot Bandito’ Vega (101 Barefoot Marathons)

2013 – Zach Pangelinan (USA National Rugby)

2012 – Jon Tuck (MMA/UFC)

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COMING SOON …

10th Micronesian Games from Marjuro June 15-24

Guam National Bodybuilding Championship June 29

QUICK HITS

Congratulations to the 2024 Guam Rugby Cup Champions: Tao Tao Mana (Men’s Cup Champions) and Southern Rugby Club (Women’s Cup Champions)
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Three graduating ruggers have signed Division I letters to play college rugby stateside.
Saige Calvo from Okkodo heads to Mount St. Mary’s
Mia Topasna from Academy heads to Lindenwood
Tanner Costa from FD heads to Iowa Central

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