SPORTS YEARENDER: Pandemic tears, cheers (Part 2)

The year 2020 was supposed to be a banner year for Philippine sports.

Barely weeks removed from winning the overall title of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Filipino athletes marched into the fresh year, believing that their first gold medal in the Olympics is just a heartbeat away.

After all, the country’s bets in pole vault specialist EJ Obiena and gymnast Carlos Yulo are both capable of pulling off a massive surprise in the biggest sports spectacle in the world.

But it didn’t happen.

A mysterious strain of virus from Wuhan, China surfaced in the early part of the year, completely washing away all plans and programs that were pinned on the drawing boards of local sports officials.

So instead of marching in the Parade of Nations at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, the country’s elite athletes were locked up and limited to doing online training in observance of social distancing and other health and safety protocols.

Sure, the year 2020 was completely shattered.

But it hardly dampened the fighting spirits of Filipino athletes in their quest for glory. They still shone and survived despite the threat of the deadly pandemic serving as a backdrop.

Here’s the second half of the two-part rundown of what happened in the year that just passed:

July

ABS-CBN had to let go of the country’s biggest local sports leagues after Congress denied the Philippines’ biggest network a franchise renewal.

With the break dragging for three months now, controversies hogged the sports pages.

ABS-CBN, which was forced to shut down its operation in May after failing to secure a new franchise, announced that it would be terminating its sports division, prompting leagues like the UAAP, NCAA and Premier Volleyball League to look for a new media partner.

Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy also lit some fireworks when he revealed his plan of selling his franchise as he was “offended and pushed to the wall” by the PBA for fining him due to an unauthorized workout.

But cooler heads prevailed and Sy eventually took back his spicy statement.

August

UST head coach Aldin Ayo found himself in deep trouble for conducting an alleged training bubble in Sorsogon.

Talking about unauthorized workout, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) men’s basketball team was reportedly doing such in a province that is more than 10 hours away from Metro Manila.

Team captain CJ Cansino opened a can of works when he revealed that UST coach, Aldin Ayo, presided in an illegal workout in his hometown in Sorsogon.

His revelation led to Ayo’s resignation and athletic director Dr. Jannel Abogado as well as the departure of star players like Renz Abando, Mark Nonoy and Brent Paraiso.

Cansino also walked away as he joined the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.

Meanwhile, Yuka Saso provided a ray of sunshine on what could have been a gloomy month as she clinched her first Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association title after ruling the NEC Karuizawa.

September

PBA players checked in for the PBA bubble in Clark.

Usually, this month kicks off the Yuletide season, but for the PBA, it’s business as usual as it trooped back to the drawing board to plot the restart of its 45th season.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial announced that they would be playing inside a quarantine bubble in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Despite spending P65 million for a three-month tournament, the PBA doesn’t mind as all it wants was to bring back basketball and put some semblance of normalcy to the lives of Filipinos who lost their jobs and loved ones to the deadly pulmonary disease.

October

PBA resumed action after a seven-month halt.

Finally, basketball is back.

The PBA unveiled its historic bubble season on 11 October at the Angeles University Foundation gym in Clark after eight months of absence.

Also raising its curtains was the Philippine Football League, which used a similar concept at the Philippine Football Federation national training center in Carmona, Cavite.

Over at the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), tension is building up as the group of executive council members led by Clint Aranas of archery continues to press the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee for an explanation on how the massive funds for the SEA Games were spent.

Ravena also finally made his Japanese debut when he scored 13 points in the NeoPhoenix’s 83-82 win over Shimane Susanoo Magic.

November

POC president Bambol Tolentino defeated Clint Aranas for a fresh term.

But Aranas’ effort went for naught.

Incumbent POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino retained his seat by a wide margin, 30-22, in the POC elections on 30 November.

Prior to that, Ginebra emerged victorious over Meralco while TNT Tropang Giga crushed Phoenix Super LPG to arrange a best-of-seven finals showdown.

Talking about victories, Gilas Pilipinas crushed Thailand twice in the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Manama, Bahrain.

Still, in Bahrain, former Ateneo de Manila star Marck Espejo reached another milestone when he signed a contract to play as reinforcement for Bani Jamra in the Isa Bin Rashid Volleyball League.

December

Barangay Ginebra ended a 13-year All-Filipino title drought.

Some good news greeted the first few weeks of the Christmas season.

Ginebra copped the Philippine Cup crown after trouncing the TNT Tropang Giga in their best-of-seven finals duel, 4-1.

LA Tenorio, who was reluctant to play inside the bubble due to his appendectomy and the birth of his daughter, claimed the Most Valuable Player award of the finals.

Meanwhile, the International Basketball Federation announced that it would stage the third window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup in Clark in February, giving millions of basketball-crazy Filipinos something to look forward to in the coming year.

The PSC also stressed that it is rolling out a training program that would be held inside a bubble for athletes who would be vying for slots in the Tokyo Olympics the following year.

mje

Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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