Monthly Archives: March 2017

Maria Sharapova

The girls are unhappy. They’re complaining, criticizing, saying it’s unfair. The controversy surrounds the most popular female athlete on this planet. Standing 6-foot-2 with flowing blonde hair, Maria Sharapova could have been a Vogue or Prada model. But she’s more than a beautiful face with long legs. She’s a 5-time Grand Slam champion who was ranked world No. 1.

Sharapova, who’ll turn 30 this April 19, is in the midst of a 15-month ban after she failed a drug test at the Australian Open last year. Humiliated, Sharapova has been busy off the tennis court: she enrolled in the Harvard Business School and has been attending to her myriad of businesses including the premium line of candies named Sugarpova. For 11 years now, Forbes has named her “the world’s most marketable female athlete” and her estimated on-and-off-court earnings exceeds $285 million.

Back to her WTA suspension, it will officially end this April 26. Now here’s the controversy. There’s a big tournament called the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix that will start on April 24 — two days before her suspension ends.

This means she can’t join, right? Wrong. The Porsche tournament organizers decided to delay her first round match to Wednesday — the day after her suspension ends.

Right? Or wrong? Technically, and the WTA has approved this request, they said it’s okay. But is it the correct thing to do?

“I don’t think it’s right but what can we do about it? She’s still banned but she can come on site on Wednesday, that’s pretty strange,” said world no. 4 Dominika Cibulkova. “For me it’s not OK and I spoke to some other players and nobody is OK with it, but it’s not up to us. All the people who are taking care of these things should know the rule and do the right thing. It’s not about her, but everyone who was doping should start from zero.”

Why was allowed to join midway through a tournament? Simple. The Porsche-sponsored Sharapova will draw the biggest attention. “From the tournament standpoint she will bring in the crowds, make money,” said British No. 2 Heather Watson. “But from a moral standpoint you should have to work your way back up if you’ve been on a ban. It just seems a bit easy.”

Caroline Wozniacki added: “Obviously rules are twisted and turned in favour of who wants to do what.”

For me, this is wrong. After a 15-month-long ban, what’s a wait of a few extra days? She’s now ridiculed by many of her peers. As one of my favorite sayings goes: “The truth is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”

Swiss dinner with Roger on the menu

Last Saturday night, we were in Switzerland. The elevation stood over 300 meters high. The wind howled and the cold penetrated our skin. Red seats and red napkins adorned the table as we dined on Swiss cuisine: sausages from Switzerland and a fondue set which required us to pierce cutlets of bread that we dipped into melted Swiss cheese.

Ahhh, delicious. We were in the company of Dr. Fritz Strolz and his charming wife, Pearle. The location was their fabulous home in Alta Vista where Cebu’s blinking lights glimmered below, punctuated by the SM Seaside City tower.

Dr. Fritz Strolz is Cebuano. Well, he was born in Switzerland and studied in the same school as Albert Einstein in Zurich but since he married a Cebuana, then he’s one of us. The couple have been long-time friends of my wife’s (Mendez) family.

When Jana, Jasmin and I visited Switzerland two years ago, we stayed in their home in Basel. Dr. Strolz toured us in his Alfa Romeo as we drove hundreds of kilometers to visit Geneva, Lausanne, Mount Rigi and even took day trips to Germany and France (to see the French National Car Museum). One highlight? Uncle Fritz brought us to TC Boys Club, the red clay courts where a young boy learned to hone his volleys.

That’s Roger Federer. The other day, he defeated Stan Wawrinka. Dr. and Mrs. Strolz got to see the same all-Swiss encounter at the Australian Open last January. In a month-long trip Down Under, the couple made sure to watch the two men’s semifinals. It was Nadal-Dimitrov in one half; the other was the all-Swiss duel.

Back to last Saturday night, we were eight guests: Dr. Ronnie Medalle and his two sons, Dr. Stevee and Santi; Dr. Ron Eullaran and his boys, Rayne and Yani; plus me and Jasmin. It was a night that ended past 11:30 that included plenty of jokes. Rayne Eullaran conversed in German. His father, the top rheumatologist Dr. Ronald, made us a laugh the whole evening. Dr. Stevee Medalle showed us a photo of his room in Manila where, hanging above his bed, was a Swiss flag.

We learned plenty about Switzerland: their population of 8.5 million; the nurses who earn P300,000/month; the requirement for each home to build a bunker. How timely for this weekend, we thought, dining on Swiss food (including Swiss ice cream dessert) with our Swiss hosts, as the Swiss lord over tennis. Said Dr. Strolz in a message yesterday: “Pearle was never so proud to be a Swiss. We are the strongest tennis nation in the world at the moment!”

Who’s basketball’s most valuable player?

It’s over. Let’s pop the champagne, ignite the loudspeakers, switch on the spotlight and proclaim the winner. It’s Russell Westbrook. He just recorded his 34th triple-double, leads the NBA in scoring with 31.7 PPG, and has sparked the Thunder’s lightning with an impressive 39-29 record (sixth in the West) — all minus Kevin Durant. Impressive? No. We need a better adjective. How about the letters M-V-P?

Let’s discuss that triple-double (which means, to the non-basketball fan, that he reaches double digits in three categories, usually in points, assists and rebounds). The all-time record for one season belongs to Oscar Robertson’s 41, which he achieved in 1962. Fifty-five years later, Westbrook has 34 ‘TDs’ with 14 games left. This means that if he records a triple-double in every other remaining game, he’ll at least tie “The Big O’s” milestone.

Given that his jersey number is “0,” will Russell break that record and be crowned today’s “Big O?” I think he will. I hope so. As each game passes, fans will watch. It’s like Golden State last year when we kept score until they won No. 73. With his latest triple-double, recorded last Thursday against the Raptors, that was his fourth straight. In that game, despite sitting out the 4th quarter, he made 16 assists — more than the entire Raptors squad. How ludicrous is that? And he’s not a hulking LeBron; he’s the same height as the 6’3” James Yap.

“I think he (Westbrook) is very conscious of the achievement,” said Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN. “He’s such an electric player with so much stage presence. And, like, from the moment he struts into the arena, usually in this outrageous outfit, he has this sneer on his face. He’s an athlete that likes to play angry. And you get the sense if he didn’t, it might even compromise his production.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

HARDEN. But, wait, because the NBA has 30 teams with 15 per squad for a total of 450 players, who else is vying for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, named after the league’s first commissioner? There’s Mr. James of the defending champs. Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 16.2 PPG in his career, now averages 26.4 and has spurred the Spurs to battle GSW for No.1. But the best rival for Westbrook?

“James Harden is my MVP choice,” said Dennis Que, a huge basketball fan who’s watched nearly 20 live NBA games, including last year’s playoff game between the Clippers and the Trail Blazers. “He’s averaging close to triple double, leading the league in assists (11.3) and leading his team on top of the West (currently 3rd). He doesn’t have superstars around him like the Cavaliers and Warriors but because of his presence, his teammates are playing well. That’s Harden’s edge over Westbrook.”

A possibility that Dennis foresees? If last year the NBA had it’s first unanimous MVP in Steph Curry, how about its first co-MVPs in Westbrook and Harden?

The 52nd Anvil Awards

Leo Amoyan (HR manager of SMB), Girlie Garces (SMB head of Corporate Communications) and John P.

Last Friday night at the Makati Shangri-La, I received an award in behalf of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC). With me were three executives from San Miguel Brewery: Girlie Garces, heading Corporate Communications; Leo Amoyan, who leads Human Resources; and Bryan Garcia from SMB’s headquarters.

SAC and SMB have been partners for 35 years. Each February or March, we recognize the Cebuano athletes and sportsmen who excelled in their respective games. And as you may have read last week, June Mar Fajardo copped the highest honor (Athlete of the Year), Donnie Nietes beamed a toothful smile as Hall of Fame awardee, Joy Tabal stood tall in her high heels, Jonel Borromeo was honored with the Presidential Award and Fred Uytengsu, born in Cebu in 1961, was our Sportsman of the Year.

Back to last Friday, it was a glittering affair as SMB and SAC jointly received the Anvil Award. What’s an “anvil?” In plain English, it means “a heavy steel or iron block with a flat top, concave sides, and typically a pointed end, on which metal can be hammered and shaped.” Named after this block of iron, the Anvil Awards honors organizations and companies whose programs make an impact and are long-lasting.

“Presented annually by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), the ANVIL is the symbol of Excellence in Public Relations,” read the website. “It is awarded to outstanding public relations programs, tools and, now, practitioners after careful screening by select PR professionals and judging by a distinguished multi-sectoral jury.”

Why would a PR group recognize an awards body that honors athletes? Because of the uninterrupted partnership of San Miguel and SAC.

Last Friday, we were seated by 4:45 p.m. Very early, I thought, for an awarding ceremony. It turns out that the program involves plenty of entertainment and speeches. Over a thousand beautifully-dressed ladies and gentlemen in coat-and-tie filled the Rizal Ballroom. The stage was huge and impressive. Large screen LCD sets swamped the backdrop. Some of the most celebrated of dance groups captivated the audience as Girlie, Leo, Bryan and myself enjoyed dinner that included salmon and corn-fed chicken.

Joy Polloso, who heads the retail group of Filinvest, was seated at the next table as many of the nation’s top firms, including Smart, PLDT, Shell, PDI and Phil. Star, Page One and more were honored. Manny Pangilinan was in attendance. Finally, when the clock neared 9 p.m., we were called up on stage for that quick award acceptance. A short but memorable moment honoring 35 long and enduring years.

Tour ni Frank and Tour de France

Both rhyme. Both involve utilizing two God-given legs to power a vehicle up a steep mountain. Both are celebrated. Of course, nothing compares to the July 1 three-week-long race in France called “Le Tour.” But here in Cebu, we have one cycling race that’s renowned.

It’s the 15th edition of Ang Tour ni Frank and it’s happening today and tomorrow. It all started when Frank Gatdula — who moved to America after high school in 1976 — visited his hometown of Compostela.

“In 1999, I came home and met Dr. JV Araneta who introduced me to Cebu Recycle members,” Frank said. “Riders who would race at the North Reclamation Area every Saturday morning and put in P20 as entry fee. It was like a ‘bente-bente’ winner-take-all race. Watching the guys racing hard for little money impressed me so I decided to donate a little cash to add to their prize money. From then on, every year I come home, I would sponsor an event during Sinulog. It was originally called ‘Cebu Recycle Race Series’ and somehow someone started calling it Ang Tour ni Frank (TnF), synonymous to the big Tour de France. My little donation snowballed into a big event, from bente-bente criterium race to a 3-day stage race that has been attended by a few foreigners.”

Pictured above, Frank Gatdula’s love affair with cycling began in 1983 after he entered the U.S. Air Force. He hasn’t stopped pedaling since and has raced in the U.S. Cycling Federation (Category 4).

“TnF is Cebu’s longest organized road race,” Frank added. “When we started, it was my intention to help build the grassroots. I sponsored a few local riders, including buying new road bikes for those with potential. Over the years, the vision has developed and we now have more bikers and road events.”

The TnF schedule? “Today (Saturday), we will have two races,” he said. “First stage, to start outside JY Square, traverses through the Busay Road and finishes in TOPS. This is the most challenging stage of the TnF. The 2nd stage is the Twilight Criterium near Lantaw SRP. It’s a 2.2 km. stretch with two hairpin turns for 40 minutes. The second day (tomorrow) will take us from Danao to just north of Lugo with a distance of 90 kms. We also have two ‘King of the Mountain’ awards.”

A total of 150 participants are expected with over 30 arriving from outside Cebu. And since this is the 15th anniversary, Frank has added special awards for Most Aggressive Rider, Oldest Rider and Youngest Rider. To avid cyclists, don’t miss Ang Tour ni Frank.

Read “Appreciating the Tour ni Frank” by my good friend and fellow writer, Dr. JV Araneta.

Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, Jr.

As hundreds gather today from 2 to 5 p.m. at the North Wing of SM City Cebu, the highest honor will be bestowed upon a Cebu-born businessman who has helped popularize sports in our sports-hungry nation. To name a few of his brands and events:

Alaska Aces, the PBA’s 14-time champions. XTERRA Off-road triathlon. Ironman 70.3 races in Vietnam, Thailand, Subic and Mactan. The 5150 events in Bohol and Subic. The Alaska Ironkids. The Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA Philippines (basketball) and the Alaska Football Cup.

Fred Uytengsu — the recipient of the “Sportsman of the Year” award — has brought these contests to our shores. Apart from being President and CEO of Alaska Milk Corp., he also heads a company that has a direct impact on Cebu sports.

Sunrise Events, Inc. is the outfit that has introduced the Ironman and XTERRA brands to the Phils. And for the past five years, including last year’s Asia-Pacific Championships, the triathlon world’s attention has been spotlighted on Cebu.

Born in Cebu in 1961, he went on to obain a Business Administration (Entrepreneurship) degree from the University of Souther California. While in college, he was captain of the USC men’s swimming team. At the same time, he represented the Philippines as national team member and competed in the 1981 SEA Games.

In 1986, he was tasked by his father, Wilfred Uytengsu, Sr., to organize a PBA team. In the storied 31-year history of the Alaska PBA squad, from the Milkmen to the Air Force to the Aces, they have accumulated 14 titles.

Busy with his corporate responsibilities chairing boad meetings and wearing a suit all-day in the Alaska Milk Corp. boardroom, he longed to continue this athletic pursuits.

Enter triathlon. Already a world-class swimmer, he added running and cycling to his daily exercise regimen and, in his triathlon career that has spanned a couple of decades, he has finished the Wimbledon of triathlons: the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Mr. Uytengsu completed the 3.8-km. swim, 180-km. bike, and 42-km. run event called the Ironman two times, recording a personal best of 12.5 hours in 2011.

More on triathlon: This August marks the sixth year that Cebu will be hosting the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race — considering by participants, including the world’s elite, as one of the most fun and most organized.

To Fred Uytengsu — who has uplifted Philippine sports, in particular helping put the brand “Cebu” in the world triathlon map — congratulations, Sportsman of the Year. Daghang salamat.

Mr. Uytengsu with Ica Maximo, one of the honorees of the 35th Cebu Sports Awards

June Mar Fajardo

Atty. Baldemero “Merong” Estenzo, the Dean of the University of Cebu (UC) College of Law, sent this text message yesterday to the PBA’s best player: “Congratulations, June Mar, on your BPC award. Ayaw ka contento ana (don’t be contented), keep improving. Practice spin move when denied sa low post. Also, your hook shots and three point shots. On defense, ayaw palayo sa imong tawo ug ipataas daan ang imong kamot opposite sa shooting hand sa imong tawo (don’t stay far and raise your hands). Again, congratulations.”

Ever since Atty. Estenzo spotted the San Miguel Beermen giant who was born in Compostela and who studied at the Pinamungajan Central School over a decade ago, the two have developed a father-and-son, counsellor-and-protege relationship.

“He is an exceptional person. His sense of loyalty is extraordinary,” said Atty. Estenzo, who recalled that Fajardo was offered to transfer to Manila several times while he was in UC (including an offer from Manny Pangilinan, in a letter handcarried by Pato Gregorio, to play for Gilas) but “June Mar turned down the offer knowing that he was still raw as a player then.”

The trait that impresses Estenzo the most is Fajardo’s humility. “He is very close to his parents and brother. He is religious,” Estenzo said. “He does not complain about how tiresome his training might be. He is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave during practice.”

June Mar with Joy Tabal (SunStar photo)

Estenzo watches all of the games of “The Kraken” on TV and, when he’s in Manila, is gifted a ticket and gets to sit beside Fajardo’s girlfriend. They often talk or send messages. Estenzo adds: “One time, he was not able to control himself and wanted to retaliate after a player elbowed him whenever he cuts for the basket. I called and told him not to do it again as it will mean fines and penalties and might result in his suspension. Also, I told him, they will always do it to him knowing that he gets distracted by such foul tactics. I told him to just take it as part of the game. He promised not to do it again and he has lived up to that promise up to this time. I am so proud that success has not gone to his head. He is still the same June Mar that I have known before.”

UC owner Atty. Augusto Go, in a past interview, echoed those words when he recalled a visit from Fajardo before his PBA stint: “When he was selected by Petron as the top pick, he visited me in UC. Buotan kaayo. You cannot find a more humble person. June Mar was so grateful and thankful but I told him, ‘No, it is I who should say thank you for all that you have brought to our school.’”

The 35th SMB-SAC Cebu Sports Awards

This Tuesday (March 7) from 2 to 5 p.m. will be “The Oscars” of Cebu sports. And while the Academy Awards was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, ours will be at the North Wing of the SM City Cebu. It’s that once-a-year gathering of Cebu’s best… and you’re invited! These awards used to be held inside the exclusive confines of Casino Español and GrandCon. Not anymore. The sportswriters — the women and men who write stories on these back pages — decided to “open” the awarding by holding it in SM City. It’s free. You get to see June Mar or “Ahas” or Mary Joy or Jonel Borromeo, the Motorace CEO who is our Presidential Awardee.

Michael Jerome Templado Limpag, SunStar’s sports editor, is the SAC president. Together with Girlie Garces, one of San Miguel Brewery’s top executives, Mike will be leading our group in honoring the year’s top personalities.

Who is the Athlete of the Year? I know the answer but I can’t reveal it here. That secret will be proclaimed on Tuesday. The Sportsman of the Year? His name (okay, that’s a clue) will be announced soon and I guarantee you that, of our nation’s 100 million Pinoys, he’s one of the most respected of sportsmen.

Here is the complete list. If you’re one of the awardees, see you on Tuesday!

MAJOR: Donnie Nietes, Joy Tabal, June Mar Fajardo, Samantha Limos, Rogelio Miguel Tremedal, Johnreil Casimero, Marlon Tapales, Milan Melindo, Josephine Teria, Jerish Velarde, Weiwei Gao, LJ Go, Niel Francis Palomares, Kiyomi Watanabe, Rafael Vidal, Khazart William Romoff, Rheyjey Ortueste, Paul Jumamil, Gretchel Soltones and Glen Lava.

CITATION: World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, John Marvin Rafols, Rick Angelo Sotto, Mart Chan Torregasa, Seth Abram Pilapil, Khalin Alex Abella, Rogelio Miguel Tremedal, Lloyd Adlawan, Alex Sebastian Blanco, Tricia Merced Opon, Elloise Marie Canillo, Punta Princesa batted sports team, UV Green Lancers, SHS-AdC Magis Eagles, Rey Suerte, Jed Colonia, Cebu City’s basketball team in Batang Pinoy, Joshua Flores, Jayvee Bahio, Joshua Sinclair, Paul Desiderio, Florence Jil Talas, Darlienne Ragasajo, Tracy Carl Dadang, Perlas Pilipinas, Allana Lim, Jack Tepora, Kenny Demecillo, Mark Magsayo, Neil John Tabanao, Jason Pagara, Jimmy Paypa, Jessie Espinas, Arthur Villanueva, Eduardo Gimenez Jr., Alphecca Gonzales, Chris Aldritz Pondoyo, Jun Duron, Alexandrea Gumilao, Joaquin Buyco, Trevor Lood, Joaquin Suarez, Pietre Dakay, Marcel Ivan Ouano, Jesse Semblante, Leo Maquiling, Valentino Calvo, Major Dean Ebarle, Lorenzo Genco, Julian Miranda, Jordan Jarvis, Kintaro Miyagi, Vincent Erik Lovitos, Raphael Clifford de Guzman, Lorenz Giuseppe Genco, Nicholas Christan Villacin, Lois Kaye Go, and Junia Gabasa. Lianne Maning, Jisha Zhyra Azur, Justin Ayra Azur, Dino Singson Jr., Janine Narboada, Jeremy Nopre, Gerald Baclaan, Felix Calipusan Jr, Precious Avegail Belicario, DJ Mae Dente, Nicholas Avila, Joseph Casquejo, Aubrey Codilla, ER Khimlord Labura, Kim Andrei Makiling, Ken Caniga, Noel Tillor, Lady Dragons, Atty. Ingemar Macarine, Andrew Kim Remolino, Karen Mae Andaya, Johann Matthew Tubesa, Jawad Cup organizers, Henze Dominique Lucero, Mary Daniese Adolfo Saether, Jan Godfrey Seno, Team Cebu City boys and girls tennis teams, Zethley Mae Alferez, Alyssa Mae Bornia, Jana Pages, Katherine Yu, Moira Frances Erediano, Karen Andrea Manayon, Jorry Ycong, Isa Molde, Fernando Agad Jr, Evangelito Dale Ceniza, Jeofrey Frasco Jr., Dino Singson, John Vincent Villa, Elwin Retanal, John Renee Mier, Ica Maximo, Dancesport Team Cebu City, Daniel dela Pisa, Kyla Sylverio, Kim Paller, Luis Drei Candia, Dartspeed Eslao, Raven Faith Alcoseba, Gudmoto B8, John Rex Tongco, Arthur Craig Pantino, Tabuelan 111 organizers, Rafael Trinidad, Team Cebu-Toyota Vios and Jette Calderon.

Pacquiao-Khan? Yes, Pacquiao can

Amir Khan is not American. He’s British. Haha. I know that’s corny but here’s a serious note: Amir Iqbal Khan is dangerous. At the age of 17, he grabbed a silver medal at the Athens Olympics. Five years later, he became one of Great Britain’s youngest ever world champions. Now 30, he sports a 31-4 record with some notable wins against Marco Antonio Barrera, Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah. He came off a five-fight winning streak prior to his brutal sixth round KO loss last May to Canelo Alvarez.

That’s the past. Come April 23, it’s sparring partner vs. sparring partner — two buddies previously under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. The story is told of their first meeting. It was October 2008 at the Wild Card Gym and Khan had just suffered his first loss after 18 wins. Against Breidis Prescott, he lasted a mere 54 seconds in the first round. One month after that shocking KO loss and on his first day back, guess who Roach asked him to spar with, as if he were a sacrificial lamb?

“People in the gym asked me if I was doing the right thing,” Roach said, after asking Khan to face then-world’s best Manny Pacquiao. “I was doing the only thing; I needed to know if Amir still wanted to be a boxer. I found out he did.”

That was eight years ago. Exactly 55 days from today, the two won’t face each other in the private confines of a Los Angeles gym but inside a massive (yet still-unannounced) stadium in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Now the consummate internet tactician, Pacquiao created a Twitter poll asking his 118,000 followers who among the four (Khan, Jeff Horn, Terence Crawford and Kell Brook) they wanted him to fight. The response was overwhelming. The well-known Briton with Pakistani origins emerged victorious.

Pacquiao-Khan. Pacquiao can? Can the senator log his 60th win at the ripe age of 38? I sought the commentary of two of the country’s brightest experts — Philboxing.com’s founder Dong Secuya and my former UP Cebu seatmate (and top boxing judge and writer) Salven Lagumbay — and here’s their take:

DONG SECUYA: “It will be an exciting fight while it lasts. Both are familiar with each other’s style as they had many rounds of sparring. The element of surprise may have been taken out. Amir had expected this fight to happen from way back so he had probably psyched himself how to defeat Manny which may turn to his advantage. But the problem with Amir is he commits many mistakes inside the ring and with his weak jaw, a puncher like Manny would be very risky for the Brit.

“Both have speed but I think the result would depend on how Amir approaches the fight. If Amir doesn’t mix up and fight from a distance, he will have a chance to win by close point decison. If Amir fights inside, Manny will catch and knock him out. But in the end, whether Amir fights inside or outside, his propensity to have lapses inside the ring will be his undoing. One error and Manny will catch him. Just like Prescott, Garcia and the much slower

Canelo did to him. I’ve personally watched Amir spar but not with Manny but I haven’t talked to him. He seems to be a nice guy.”

SALVEN LAGUMBAY: “Stylistically this makes for an entertaining fight. I’ve watched both Pacquiao and Khan while they were still both training under Freddie Roach. Khan has the tools to match Pacquiao in terms of speed. Plus he is younger. Definitely hungry. In terms of power Pacquiao might prove a bit too much, plus the Filipino’s all-out, unorthodox style might give Khan some trouble. True, they have both sparred against each other in the past. Khan can claim he edged the Pacman in those sparring sessions. But as you know, sparring is not real fight. Oceans apart. This will be a tremendous match up, a year or two late, but still any boxing pundit’s delight. Still one of the biggest match ups available in boxing.”