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Freeman Cebu Sports

Unprecedented

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

The year that was gave us top sports stories in the country. The runaway banner story is the golden lift of the strongest Filipina at the Tokyo Olympics, the first ever by any Filipino athlete, man or woman. We thought that was it, but a band of hungry pugilists added two silvers and one bronze to carry the country to its best ever finish at the quadrennial games.

There could have been more had the much-vaunted Carlos Yulo vaulted to the podium. Instead, he landed out of the mat and dropped out of medal contention. By a narrow margin, the diminutive Yulo slipped to fourth but bounced back to the never before, a gold in the worlds for the same event and silver in the parallel bars. In one championship. This after a bronze and a gold in two prior editions, both for his favorite floor exercise. All first ever by a Filipino gymnast, man or woman.

Topping the list in professional sports is the stunning win of Yuka Saso at the US Open. But while the fairy tale just started for the youngest women’s champion in the land of milk and honey where Filipinos toil for money, it had to end for the pearl of the orient, after Yuka chose her foreign lineage and decided to change allegiance to the land of the rising sun.

While the 19-year old Yuka won the youngest in history, middle-aged Nonito Donaire staged a stunning comeback to reinstall himself bantamweight champion. The oldest at 38, a title he defended against compatriot Reymart Gaballo via a one-punch knockout.

The boxing highlight starred Manny Pacquiao who succumbed to a young Cuban. But for some reason it surprised no one. Somehow everyone saw it coming. And right on cue, it was followed by a bigger story of the greatest Filipino boxer calling it a career to pursue another.    

But while we were treated to sterling Filipino performances both in amateur and professional sports, we also stood confused witnesses to the curious case of EJ Obiena. His is not only one of the top stories that dominated sports pages, it is also one tough story that bruised egos.

Accused of not paying his coach and falsifying liquidation report, EJ maintained his innocence, admitted only to delayed payment and imperfect liquidation. But the supposed aggrieved coach retracted his earlier statements that sparked investigation, clarified he has no monetary issues with his ward. A witch hunt, he called the investigation. Before the year ended, the Philippine Olympic Committee called it harassment. It not only discontinued to recognize incumbency of the athletics chief but also declared him persona non grata.

But the athletics chief is unfazed, invoked jurisdiction and procedure. The probe team found liquidation preceded actual payment. It now recommends the world number 6 be dropped from the national training pool and hold him criminally accountable for estafa. EJ calls it delayed payment, his coach calls it full payment, even slightly higher. Apparently, the athletics federation calls it afterthought. Saving face also is.

TOKYO OLYMPICS

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