Gilas loses in MOA but heads for Spain

Somebody once commented: “Second place is ‘the first place for losers.’”

That’s painfully true. But also untrue. Because while our Gilas Pilipinas squad “only” placed Runner-up, we made it. The goal was to qualify. We qualified. The goal was to beat the Chinese. We defeated them — surprisingly, not in actual combat inside MOA Arena, but we placed three spots higher than the country with 1.34 billion people.

Iran, literally, was too tall an order. Japeth Aguilar may have been eyed for the NBA’s D-League but Iran’s Hamed Haddadi is an actual NBA player. There’s a giant difference there. As expected, it was Haddadi who towered tallest — and got his third FIBA MVP trophy. Unstoppable. Haddadi was too hefty, too heavy-duty, too NBA-experienced.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re headed for Spain 12 months from now — the once-every-four-years FIBA Basketball World Cup runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14, 2014 — to stand on the same Spanish tiles as Kevin Durant. Although it’s unlikely that a Phils-USA encounter will happen (Spain will have six city-venues), just the thought of us playing in the same playground as the big boys will give us pride. Pinoy pride.

Final thought: You think Kobe arrived in Manila yesterday to scout us out this early? Ha-ha.

R399. Like a thousand others last Sunday morning, I joined the “R399: Live Your Dream” run that was called “Remembering Ramie.”

Ramie, of course, is Ramie Igaña, who passed away last year while doing an act he enjoyed best — biking — during the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race. His race bib last year was “R399.”

Two mornings ago, clear skies and a cool dawn breeze greeted the runners which included plenty of Ironman finishers (Richard Ho, Noy Jopson, Bernard Sia) and prominent Cebuanos: Pablo John Garcia, Ramsey and Jingo Quijano, Joel Garganera, Joy Polloso, Jesse Taborada, Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani, and our ultramarathoner editor, Michelle So.

After an absence from joining runs for over a year, what I enjoyed most about the event were two things:

First, the route. It was simply a loop around the Cebu Business Park. The run had three distances (3K, 6K and 12K) and we never ventured outside the confines of Ayala. It was safe. The air was cleaner. Fewer cars crossed our paths. The intersection areas were free from too many vehicles — unlike Cebu’s other crowded streets.

Second, I like the no-singlet-all-medals policy. I registered for the 6K and paid P350. I was surprised not to get a singlet. But, guess what: upon finishing, I got a sparkling reward and medal crafted by… Juarez. (No mispelling there; just transform the “S” to “J.”) All finishers, including my daughter Jana and her classmates Louise, Christine and Meg, got Juarez medals. Well done, Doc Humility (“Mitty”).

DUFNER. Tiger Woods lost again. It’s no surprise. He’s now 18-0. Which means that in the last 18 majors that he’s joined, he hasn’t won. Will he ever break free from his I’m-stuck-at-14-majors slump? He’s getting older (he’ll be 38 this Dec.). Meanwhile, what a victory for Jason Dufner. A first-time major winner (he’s the 15th first-time major winner in the last 21 majors), what makes Dufner famous is the word “dufnering.” Golfers know this stance. If you don’t know what it is, Googgle it. It’ll make you smile.

RAFA. Me, injured? Me, out for seven months? Me, skipping the Olympics? Yes. The “me” refers to Nadal. Did you watch a few of the Rogers Cup matches over the weekend? (Sad how Roger couldn’t play in his “Rogers” Cup.) The Nadal-Djokovic semifinal was another war. Did you watch how Nadal drilled that backhand straight to the neck of the Serb? Ouch. But that was unintended. That happens all the time, especially in doubles. What’s funny was Novak’s reaction, not acknowledging the sorry of Rafa. But in the end, after the handshake and the apology, all’s well between the two. Plus, in the end, including the final against Milos Raonic, we know Nadal is not only back — but back even better, winning 48 of 51 matches. Vamos, Rafa.

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