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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Comebacking stars boost PH’s SEAG bowling campaign

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The Philippine Bowling Federation is making sure that the national team will have a strong showing in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

In recent years, the Philippines has not performed well in international bowling competitions.

Hall of Famers Bong Coo and Paeng Nepomuceno have taken the helm to revive the sport that has given the country countless pride and honor in the global arena.

With the country set to host the regional multi-event on Nov. 30 to Dec. 10, the PBF’s national team cannot afford to underperform before hometown fans.

Liza del Rosario
Liza del Rosario

“We need to perform strongly, hindi tayo puwedeng mapahiya,” said Coo, a four-time world bowling champion, currently the Philippine bowling team manager.

The Philippines, which has slowed down in recent years, will be up against Southeast Asian rivals which have improved tremendously—Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Faced with a tough task, Coo is coming up with an old formula that could work wonders for the Philippines bid.

She recalled the services of former champions Frederick Ong and Paolo Valdez and asked Liza Del Rosario to put on hold her retirement. Another comebacking player, Rachel Leon, is also creating quite a stir in local tournaments.

The four, along with current toast Kenneth Chua, recently topped the MBA 47th Sarimanok Open, which served as one of the considerations for selecting the four-men, four-women national squad.

PH team manager Bong Coo
PH team manager Bong Coo

“We should form a really solid team. Na walang bubuhatin and dapat balance. On their own, they should be able to produce. It is still an individual performance that counts in bowling,” said Coo. “We feel with the veterans, iyung mga baguhan aangat na din, they will be inspired.”

Currently, there are 10 female and 10 male players in the national pool.

Golden Boy

Once called the as the Golden Boy of Bowling, Paulo Valdez was winning tournaments here and there. He won multiple medals in the FIQ World Championships, Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games.

He retired early because of mixed priorities.

Now, 45 yeas old, Valdez has decided to become a full-time athlete again. “Nagkaroon ako ng excitement to go back to the game I love. We are hosting (the SEA Games) and I want to compete before our countrymen again,” said Valdez, who gave a glimpse of his old self in his first comeback tournament last year in the Philippine Open by rolling a perfect game.

Frederick Ong
Frederick Ong

In the most recent tournament participated by national campaigners, he placed 3rd runner up.

Frederick Ong was one of the Filipino stars when he won the men’s singles’ bronze in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, then the 2011 SEA Games singles’ gold, silver in doubles, bronze in team event and another silver in the masters.

Then, injury forced to him stop in 2015.

Returning to the sport he truly loves, the 37-year-old Ong has resigned from his day-job to focus again on his sport.

“I decided to come back and aspire for the national team kasi it’s a privilege to represent the country again. I’m fully healed and I want to show na kaya pa rin natin manalo.”

Del Rosario was supposed to retire last year after winning the women’ singles’ trophy in the PH International Open. But she was asked to stay one more year—just for the SEA Games.

Paolo Valdez
Paolo Valdez

“How can I say no if kung para sa bayan ito? I decided to stay also help ang mga batang players for the transition. Dito gagawin ang SEA Game and ayaw nating mapahiya ang bansa,” said Del Rosario. “We will rise up to the challenge, lalaban tayo.”

The recent champion among contenders from the national squad, Rachel Leon, is likewise making her return.

After two years of absence, she came back last year but hardly made a splash.

Her victory in the Sarimanok, beating even male contenders like men’s coach Biboy Rivera, Valdez and Kenneth Chua, is a big revelation for her.

“This victory means so much to me because this is one of the gauges of our skill level and probably, will have weight in the selection of players for the national team,” said Leon.

She topped a field of 32 contenders, 20 of them members of the national pool.

In the first semifinal run, Leon outpointed Paulo Valdez Biboy Rivera with 240 pinfall total.

Leon defeated Liza Del Rosario in the 2nd semifinal, 209-163, to advance to the winner-take-all final, where he outpointed Kenneth Chua, 212-151.

Chua topped the elimination round with an aggregate of 2404 after 12 games, followed by De Rosario (2398), Valdez (2388), Leon (2388) and Rivera (2378).

Just like other old champs who are making their return, Leon said the call of duty is irresistible. “Kakaiingit kasi when your former teammates are playing again, so I decided to go at it again.”

Coo said the final line-up of the national team will be announced first week of March. The team will undergo intensive training in the US and compete against the best in the world.

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