Philippines bets brace for big storm
- Gerry Carpio () - November 12, 2010 - 12:00am

GUANGZHOU, China – Host China’s massive preparation in its bid to dominate the Asian Games on home soil, the seething rivalry between Korea and Japan for second overall and the emergence of other powers in the region will pit the Philippines against the odds in the XVI Asian Games which fires off tomorrow in 53 venues.

China, the overall champion as host of the Olympics of Beijing in 2008, is going flat out to win on all fronts to match its performance of 166 gold meedals in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar while Japan and Korea will be aiming for excellence in 118 individual events which they shared four years ago.

There are 476 gold medals at stake in Guangzhou.

China remains a strong gold medal favorite in boxing where Filipinos Rey and Victor Saludar, Charly Suarez, Delfin Boholst and Wilfredo Lopez and lone woman entry Annie Albania are all aiming for no less than the gold. Along the way, they may encounter formidable opponents from Thailand and Korea.

China is also expected to capitalize on the proverbial home court advantage to upstage the Filipino golfers, a young team composed of Jerson Balasabas, Miguel Tabuena, Mhark Fernando and Marcel Puyat.

Women golfers Chihiro Ikeda, Ma. Isabel Piccio and Dottie Ardina will also be up against the Thais and Malaysians.

China may be missing NBA stars Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets and Yi Jian Lian but the national team is intact. Besides, the national cagers under coach Rajko Toroman have other countries to contend with on their way to a possible dream match with China. These could be Iran, Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei.

Despite the Filipinos’ milestone achievements in world championships in bowling, billiards, taekwondo and wushu, the preparations China and other countries have channeled into their gold-medal quests negate whatever advantage the Filipino may have.

Gone are former World Cup champions Paeng Nepomuceno and Bong Coo, and in their place is a bunch of young aspirants led by 18-year veteran and former world masters champion Biboy Rivera.

“We are rated only fourth or fifth going to Guanzhou,” said Rivera, who finished second overall along with Apple Posadas in the recent World Cup behind England.

China is not yet the dominant force in bowling, but the bowlers from Iran, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei, statistically, remain the fancied players to bring home the gold.

The Philippines also basked in the glory of world champions at one point or another before the Asian Games and they are all in Guangzhou.

They are Efren “Bata” Reyes, Warren Kiamco, Rodolfo Luat, Reynaldo Grandea and Benjamin Guevarra who will be joined by newcomer Alvin Barbero. Like the bowlers, they have not been as impressive as they had been in the money-games of professional billiards since the sport was introduced in the SEA Games in 1987.

At the height of their power, the Filipinos were shut out in the 1991 SEA Games. In the last SEA Games in Laos, Reyes and Django Bustamante were booted out in the first round – fresh from their world title quests.

Will they slay the SEAG ghosts here in Guangzhou?

“We have done everything to prepare them for the Games,” said billiards president Bong Ilagan, who had, himself, problems dealing with the players’ managers.

Wushu saw world champions from the Philippines since the 1991 SEA Games, but on the Asian level, China continues to be the master of the sport it introduced 500 years ago. Filipino wushu experts have, at least departed from the training scheme of going to China for training. Filipinos Edward Folayang and Mark Ediva have improved their skills and guts in the dangerous ultimate fighting competitions and hope these experiences will give them some advantage in Guangzhou.

 Taekwondo’s Tshomlee Go, the only bet on whose shoulders the Philippines rests its gold medal hopes following the absence of the injured Olympian Antonette Rivero, will have to overcome the frustration of a first round loss to an Australian in the first round of the 2008 Olympic taekwondo competitions.

If he gets the luck of the draw, he may get past the quarterfinal round where he may face Chinese Taipei or powerhouse Korea, where the sport originated and where they have trained three months before the Asiad.

In other sports, there is no beating the Chinese. China is No. 3 in the world chess while the Philippines is No. 37. The swimmers of China, Japan and Korea are among the world’s top 20.

ALVIN BARBERO ANNIE ALBANIA APPLE POSADAS ASIAN GAMES BIBOY RIVERA CHINA GAMES GUANGZHOU JAPAN AND KOREA WORLD WORLD CUP
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