Ups and down for PH sports
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
FILIPINO ardent sports followers (including this writer) were quite elated when our very own 15-year-old lawn tennis wunderkid Alex Eala won her first major international tourney called “W15 Manacor ITF,” a categorized major professional world tilt organized and hosted by world’s second ranked tennis sensation Rafael Nadal held in Mallorca, Spain last January 24.
It was amazing how the Quezon City-born Eala defeated all her opponents from France, Italy, Hong Kong, including ITF world number two ranked Seone Mendez of Australia that paved her way to the championship match. She eventually defeated the more experienced hometown foe and favorite Yvonne Cavalle-Reimers in three sets, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, bagging the event’s $15,000.00 top prize and the coveted trophy. Her victory moved the lowly-rated Eala to world ranking from No. 1651 to No. 942, and catapulted her rank as No. 3 now in the world’s women junior division.
And in the first round of the second leg of the same tourney, Eala, fortunately survived another squeaking 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, victory over Swedish star Mirjam Bjorklund and became the event’s favorite and darling of the crowd. Eala is a scholar of Rafael Nadal Academy and early turned professional two years ago at the age of 13 years. Yes, that’s the good news for the Philippine sports and I doff my hat to this youngster for bringing honors to our country early. I might eat my words but I honestly believe that this kid’s journey to world’s stardom on her chosen sport has just started. And despite the pandemic, the sport is a distant game and more tourneys are waiting for her.
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The FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers’ tilt which will be hosted by the Philippines on February 18-22 to be held in Clark Field, Pampanga is now in jeopardy. The sudden announcement of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio to cancel it due to the entry travel restrictions on arriving foreigners from 30 countries will definitely affect the arrival of the players and their staff.
The culprit again is the COVID -19 variant. Of course, the world basketball governing body FIBA was deeply disappointed, and so are the Filipino basketball enthusiasts, and I’m one of them. The window 3 competitions featuring Group A squads like the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and our country’s arch rival South Korea as well as Group C teams like Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and my former home Guam will tangle with each other thru the “bubble system,” like what’s being done now in NBA.
Latest reports said the SBP officials are scrambling to find other options like finding a replacement venue or to postpone the tilt by at least a month. The opening day February 18 is too close for comfort to replace the site and to reschedule the competition. The situation will likely impact on the image of basketball in the country – the number one sport of Filipinos.
Of course, the Philippines has already spent a big sum of money for the preparations. The tourney is, after all, the biggest hoopla in Asia this year with the rare participation of Australia, New Zealand and Guam which is an island of U.S.A. as added features of the event.
The opening day February 18 is indeed, too close to find a substitute host. The SBP officials should find the options to save the prestigious competitions. With SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan at the helm, we have reason to believe they can still find the solution Let’s just wait and see.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Then the Lord will bring upon you and your descendants extra-ordinary plagues—great and prolonged plagues—and serious and prolonged sicknesses.” DEUTERONOMY 28: 59
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