STAR Top 10 stories: SEAG '11 remembered for the flops, not feats
- The STAR Sports Staff () - December 26, 2011 - 12:00am

No. 2 – Debacle In Indonesia

Long jumper Marestella Torres and lady pool player Iris Ranola provided some sparks in the country’s otherwise disastrous showing in the 26th Southeast Asian Games in various venues in Indonesia.

The men’s basketball team, the baseball squad and the Phl blu boys and girls also had their share in the measly 36-gold medal haul the 750-plus strong Phl contingent harvested in a fortnight of regional competitions.

Top sports officials had earlier expressed confidence that Team Pilipinas would figure prominently in the overall medal race with one even predicting a haul of at least 90 gold medals. But in the end, the Filipino bets failed to even better their tally of 38 in fewer events played in Laos in 2009. 

The Philippines had a concluding gold-silver-bronze take of 36-56-77 from 39 sports and limped in sixth overall for the second time since 2007. It was the seventh time the Philippines failed to make it to the top three in the biennial meet.

The Philippines and Indonesia joined the SEA Games in 1977, but they were poles apart since then. Indonesia emerged overall champion for the 10th time with a closing medal count of 182-151-143, followed by deposed champion Thailand with 109-100-120, then Vietnam (96-92-100), Malaysia (39-30-81), and Singapore (42-45-73).

Victories by Team Pilipinas came far and in- between, outclassed by the better-trained and much-prepared opposition, particularly Vietnam, an emerging sporting power.

The winners were led by Torres, the only athlete to break both the Philippine and SEA records and Ranola who emerged double-gold winner with a sweep of the 9-ball and 8-ball events in billiards.

Torres went for the record on her third attempt, jumping to a new SEAG mark of 6.71 meters which could have won her the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games.

The Philippines hit the most number of wins in taekwondo and boxing with four each then in billiards with three.

Athletics, cycling, wushu, wrestling, softball and bridge delivered two apiece while chess, bowling, tennis, traditional boat race, equestrian, archery, rowing, basketball, judo, fencing, fin swimming, baseball and wall climbing accounted for one each.

World No. 1 Dennis Orcollo hardly felt the pressure in winning the 8-ball pool event while the men’s basketball team did not leave anything to chance and stamped its class over a badly-outclassed field.

The world-class poomsae team of Rani Ann Ortega, Francesca Camille Alarilla and Ma. Clara Janice Lagman outperformed fellow elite team from Vietnam, boxers Alice Kate Aparri and Josie Gabuco remained the queens in their divisions while Rene Herrera came back to reinstall himself as 3,000m steeplechase titleholder.

Wushu’s Mark Eddiva and Edward Folayang ventured and won in the deadly combat of the Ultimate Fighting Challenge the last four years and clobbered their opponents without fear, without mercy to retain their seats at the top.

Margarito Angana, the youngest and bravest in a family of wrestlers, stayed as 55kg champion in the Greco-Roman event.

With John Baylon beaten – by a participant half his age – for the first time in 17 straight successful stints, Nancy Quillotes saved the day with the only gold in judo. Defending champion Walbert Mendoza also made a successful defense for the only gold in fencing.

New stars also came forth to somehow inspire Phl golden efforts in the battlefronts of Jakarta, Java and Palembang.

There were taekwondo jins John Paul Lizardo, Maria Camille Manalo and Elaine Alora, boxer Dennis Galvan, bowler Frederick Ong, cyclist Rene Mier, fin swimmer Danielle Faith Santos and equestrian rider Diego Lorenzo.

No. 3 – Azkals: football’s stray dogs no more

Who would have imagined the Philippine Azkals, a team used to be dismissed like stray dogs, would one day play MLS champion LA Galaxy, a high-profile American club led by global icon David Beckham?

It happened one special December night at Rizal Stadium, where some 9,000 spectators stood witness, shelling out precious bucks to see the English superstar do his tricks in a clinical 6-1 win over the somehow star-struck Azkals. 

This well-attended gig provided the strong finishing kick to a fruitful year for the country that’s enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the beautiful game.

Picking up on their star-making semis appearance in the AFF Suzuki Cup in December 2010, the Azkals, under new German mentor Michael Weiss, kicked off 2011 by blanking Mongolia at jampacked Panaad in Bacolod, 2-0, en route to a 3-2 win on aggregate in the qualifying playoff round for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.

A win over Bangladesh (3-0), and draws with Myanmar (1-1) and Palestine (0-0) in the succeeding qualifying group stage secured for the Azkals a spot in the Challenge Cup’s main competitions in Nepal in March, a first time.

The breakthrough carried over to the Asian Qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the Phl made a historic stint in the second round despite struggles to tap Europe-based pros and consistently form its strongest team. Buoyed by a 4-0 rout at Rizal Memorial, the Azkals turned back first-round foe Sri Lanka on aggregate, 5-1, but rammed into Asian powerhouse Kuwait in Round 2, yielding both legs, 0-3 and 1-2.

Friendlies against higher-ranked Singapore (0-2) and Nepal (4-0) saw different results for Phl XI, which reached as high as 151st on the FIFA world rankings last March and ended 2011 at 159th, 10 notches lower than its best position a year ago.

The Azkals’ success, however, didn’t trickle down to their under-23 team, which wound up last in Group B action in the 26th Southeast Asian Games with one victory (3-2 over Laos) to show against four defeats (1-3 to Vietnam, 1-2 to Timor Leste, 0-5 to Myanmar and 1-2 to Brunei).

Still, there were more breakthroughs than heartbreaks for Phl football, overall. On the local front, competitions perked up as well, capped by the UFL Cup finals witnessed by 6,000 fans, the largest for a local match in recent memory.

No. 4 – Eagles, Lions still kings of college ball

In college basketball, it was more of the same last year – Ateneo lording it over the field in the UAAP and San Beda stamping its class again in the NCAA.

The Norman Black-mentored Eagles smashed the Far Eastern U Tams, 82-69, to cap a sweep of their title series and complete a rare four-peat in the UAAP while the Frankie Lim-mentored Lions outsteadied the San Sebastian Stags, 57-55, to likewise sweep the NCAA crown.

Ateneo thus joined the elite roster of teams with four straight UAAP championships, including University of Santo Tomas (1993-96) and La Salle (1998-2001).

With a sound cage program and an almost intact roster next year, Ateneo can shoot for a fifth straight championship as it tries to move closer to the current league record of seven straight titles achieved only by University of the East, under the legendary Baby Dalupan, from 1965-1971.

For San Beda, the title was its fifth in the last six seasons, firming up its claim as the best NCAA team in the last decade.

San Sebastian, however, foiled Ateneo and San Beda’s title bid in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League as the Stags shot the Eagles in the finals to claim the season’s last collegiate crown in a tournament that gathered the country’s leading colleges and universities.

No. 5 – Orcollo remains world pool’s no. 1

Dennis Orcollo re-staked his claim as the world No. 1 by topping two of the world’s major pro events then having his share in the country’s gold-medal haul in the 26th SEA Games in Indonesia.

Orcollo hit it big right at the onset of the year, clobbering the Netherlands’ Neils Feijen, 10-3, for the World 8-Ball crown in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates in February.

A few days later, he would share with three others the 2010 PSA Athlete of the Year award on the strength of his gold-medal win in the Guangzhou Asian Games.

As he continued his hot streak, the proud Surigao native would also rule the 11th Predator International 10-Ball Championship at home in September in come-from-behind fashion, winning the final three racks to beat Finnish Mika Immonen, 10-8, for the 10-Ball championship before a cheering home crowd at the Robinson’s Galleria in Ortigas.

It was his first international championship bagged in Manila.

His exploits in the year didn’t end there. He donned the national colors in the SEA Games and brought home a gold medal with his victory in the 8-ball event.

It was another outstanding year indeed for Orcollo, who also churned out a runner-up finish in the World Pool Masters and a semifinal showing in the World 9-Ball.

(To be continued)

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