Monthly Archives: June 2017

Formula One

Interesting times for F1. Malaysia will host their last Grand Prix race this 2017. After Eddie Irvine won the inaugural event at Sepang in 1999, this October will be the final race. The reason? According to BBC: “Malaysia had struggled in recent years to attract a significant crowd, its appeal damaged by the more glamorous night-time event on a street track in Singapore.”

Speaking of Singapore, they’re not sure yet of being part of the 2018 calendar. When next year’s schedule was announced, Malaysia was deleted and asterisks were attached beside the names “China” and “Singapore.”

April 8, 2018 is the Shanghai F1 race but that’s uncertain. Same with Singapore, which has hosted the night party since 2008. Will racing aficionados witness three Asian countries doing a pit stop (stopping) next year? Let’s see. As to the 2017 season, it can’t get any more thrilling.

Justin Alfafara, a long time F1 fanatic, commented on the eight races thus far this season.

“It’s been more exciting compared to the previous Mercedes dominant era and the Red Bull dominant era prior to that,” Justin said. “Although Mercedes is still the team to beat, Ferrari are not far behind and are leading in the championship.”

Sebastian Vettel is leading with 153 points followed by Lewis Hamilton’s 139. There are still 12 races to go so plenty of fight. Talking of fights, one erupted last Sunday during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it was a spectacle. Vettel bumped Hamilton’s rear and side. Are we watching a game of bump-cars?

“Hamilton was just doing what any driver up front would do,” Justin said. “The Safety Car was exiting at the end of that lap and ANY driver leading the pack would always slow down and bunch up the rest of the pack so that the Safety Car can exit in a clean manner and not get in his way when normal race speed resumes; he did that also during the previous Safety Car session.”

“Based on the footage, Vettel was following way too close to begin with so naturally, when Hamilton slowed down at that corner, Vettel collided with him. In the heat of the moment, Vettel (usually one who does not man up to his mistakes) took that as a sign of aggression and went alongside Hamilton, raised his hand in anger and turned into Hamilton in retaliation. Now, the FIA stewards have access to the telemetry data on all the cars and it did show that Hamilton DID NOT brake test Vettel at all. So simply put, Vettel was at fault.”

I don’t follow every F1 race but that video footage got me awakened. Justin continues his commentary for this season: “What surprised me is the rest of the mid field teams and the backmarker teams are also in a position to challenge each other. With the exception of the Baku Grand Prix (a fluke and the season’s craziest race), the win is just between Mercedes and Ferrari; but the midfield racing is intense.

“A lot of younger drivers on the same grid with seasoned veterans, throw into the mix team orders, off track politics, engines blowing up constantly, inconsistent steward penalties; we’ve got teammate wars in Red Bull, Force India and Sauber, the ever present Bottas-Raikonnen collisions, and the Hamilton-Vettel rivalry.. these have spiced up the racing.” 

In addition, Justin is hoping that Max Verstappen is given a reliable car and can win some races. “Force India has been strong lately and have their own war between their drivers,” he said. “I hope their in-team rivalry will also get in the way of Lewis and Vettel like they have the past few races and make the racing upfront more unpredictable.” 

Manny Pacquiao City

When Dr. Ronald Eullaran invited us to his hometown of Gen. Santos City last April, we said yes. Who can say no to one of the nicest and funniest (and best) doctors in Cebu?

With Dr. Ron and his wife Raycia (and their son, Ryane), our group included James and Jewel Co, their son, Alex, plus me and Jasmin. It was a three-day getaway loaded with plenty of eating (fresh tuna, steak at the Dole clubhouse, and the best-tasting crabs in Gusteau’s).

We also made sure to allocate most of the mornings to an activity we love best: biking. On our first day, we woke up before 5 a.m. and pedaled the western portion of Sarangani Bay. We biked for over 40 kms., a trek that included several uphill battles as we passed through Tambler and reached Maasim. Our wives (Raycia, Jewel and Jasmin) would not be outdone. They ran the streets of the city formerly known as Dadiangas.

Our hosts for that weekend were Dr. Ron’s mom — Mrs. Dhel Eullaran — and Ron’s sister, Atty. Elvie Albano. Her husband, a top lawyer and businessman, Josemar Albano, ran a 60K race that Sunday. As Josemar finished in Susan’s Beach in Maasim, we converged in the same area to congratulate the ultramarathoner (a week later, Josemar would run the Great Wall of China Marathon).

While on the bike, the view was stunning. The road snaked beside the water (Sarangani Bay) and there were few cars and trucks. Biking with us was Elvie’s son, Aries, who does triathlon; we ascended a few hills and stopped to smell the fresh air and to absorb the calm blue water that overlooked.

The following morning, we did the opposite route of Sarangani Bay. We started in Greenleaf Hotel and biked for over 60 kms. As we reached the town of Glan, we stopped at the high point of the Glan Monument and took a photo: James, Ron and me. All-sweating, all-smiling with Mount Matutum in our background and Sarangani Bay beneath us, it was a photo and an experience to cherish.

PACMAN. What else did we see in Gensan, which also happens to be the hometown of my editor, Mike Limpag? Plenty of buildings labeled “JMP.” Those are the initials of my wife but they’re not her buildings. They stand for Jinkee & Manny Pacquiao. They are plenty in number and they’re numbered: JMP 1, JMP 2… and you see them, large and small, everywhere. In the JMP 2 buiding, for example. there’s one shop that’s handled by the queen: Jinkee’s Fashion World.

Right beside the Greenleaf Hotel was the Pacman Wildcard Gym. I was unable to take a peek inside but was told that Pacman visits to train and box. It’s a fitness center that offers other types of workouts: dancing, stationary cycling, Zumba and yoga. The building where his gym was located? JMP Arcade.

We passed by the house of the Senator. Surrounded by high walls, it was a massive house and was near the home of Atty. Josemar and Elvie Albano, close friends of Manny.

One more structure that Pacquiao is building is a church. In an Inquirer story dated Nov. 27, 2014, Pacquiao was said to have appropriated P295 million to build the massive church. It sits on a five hectare property (that cost P95 million) and the cost of construction is reportedly P200 million. We did not get a chance to tour “The Word for Everyone” church but the two-story building is said to include, apart from the worship arena, a bible school, a bible study room and a pastor’s lounge.

“I owe to God everything that I have right now – wealth, health, fame, success, a dutiful and beautiful wife and my wonderful children,” said Sen. Pacquiao. “I have to give it back to Him. The amount is nothing compared to what God has done to my life.”

Down Under, it’s uphill for Jeff Horn

He’s a Physical Education school teacher turned boxer. Imagine if he shocks the world next Sunday by defeating Manny Pacquiao? Though that scenario is as unlikely as Golden State relinquishing the trophy next year — what a fairytale story for the Australian.

Jeff Horn’s story is inspiring. When he was a young kid in Brisbane, he walked out of school one day only to be told to drop on his knees and say sorry.

“Get on your knees and say sorry to my mate,” the big kids said to Horn’s friend. He took a knee and got whacked. “Now you,” they told Jeff. “No,” he replied. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” They slapped Jeff’s face. “Then I just walked away,” he said. “I couldn’t fight anyone let alone fight 30 of them. I remember walking back to my mate’s place that day. I felt so annoyed and so belittled.”

That story came from the Sydney Morning Herald. Soon after that traumatic experience, Jeff entered a martial arts gym. He then slipped on a pair of boxing gloves and won the amateur state trophy. Next, the Australian title in 2009. After that, he competed in the London Olympics where, as a light welterweight, he won twice before losing in the quarters.

And now, this: the biggest fight of his life and the most consequential boxing fight in Australia. For the 29-year-old who stands 5-foot-9 and carries a 16-win, one-draw (undefeated) record, this story is remarkable. This bout wasn’t supposed to happen, remember? Pacquiao’s first choice was Amir Khan, with event in the U.A. E.

The fight next Sunday will be held in the Suncorp Stadium, a venue mainly for soccer and rugby (it hosted the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final), and the promoters are hoping for a full capacity crowd of 55,000. They’ve also priced the tickets reasonably: 27,000 seats are sold at A$100 (Php3,800) and they’ve allocated 6,000 general admission tickets at only $39 (only Php1,500).

In June of last year, I got the chance to visit Australia for the first time and, I must declare, of the numerous places that I’ve visited, Australia ranks at the very top. The weather at this time is perfect (9 to 22C). The Aussies are so relaxed and friendly. There is so much open space for bike lanes and jogging paths; lakes for kayaking and rowing; tennis courts littered everywhere; it’s an outdoor, all fresh air, let’s-go-out-and-sweat continent. Jana, Jasmin and I loved the visits to Syndey and Melbourne.

The fight will be in Brisbane and it’s scheduled at 1:30 p.m. That’s quite an awkward time for a sporting event. But they have to conform with the U.S. Saturday night schedule. So, to us here at home, it’s the same 11:30 a.m. schedule.

The odds are obviously tilted in favor of MP. But this has only given the Aussie camp more impetus in that we’re-the-underdog inspiration.

“We want Manny overconfident and dismissive of Jeff’s chances,’’ said Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton. “Jeff’s a heavy puncher but the legs are the key to this fight. His legs are 29, Manny’s are 38. Jeff will be giving Manny all kinds of angles and controlling the distance between them. Manny’s legs aren’t as fast as they were 10 years ago. If he’s cut corners in his preparation Jeff will make him pay hard for every one of those 38 years.’’

Prize money? Pacquiao is guaranteed $10 million while Horn will receive $500,000. Computing the disparity, the Pinoy will get 20 times more than the Aussie. As lopsided as this is, Jeff Horn won’t mind. It’s his biggest paycheck ever. Not bad for a bullied kid turned PE teacher turned boxer. Reminds me of Rocky Balboa.

Jonel Borromeo and Joy Tabal

Mary Joy Tabal (speaking) with Jonel Borromeo (center) and Coach Philip Dueñas (SunStar/Alan Tangcawan)

If there’s one individual to thank for the continued excellence of Mary Joy Tabal, it’s the eldest son of Maxcy and Marivic Borromeo.

Jonel Borromeo was my high school classmate. He’s also the CEO of several Borromeo-owned companies. The Ironman 70.3 races? He’s completed that multiple times.

I asked Jonel for an update on Joy Tabal and here’s what he said: “All is good. I’m glad the ordeal of getting Joy to run in the SEA Games is over.”

We, too, are happy that Cebu’s pride and joy will be competing this August in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thanks to the negotiating skills of Mr. Borromeo, he was able to convince the PATAFA officials to include the marathon queen in the SEAG roster.

But why did PATAFA give Joy such a difficult time? Wasn’t her inclusion supposedly obvious? Are we not to send our best? Joy is the four-time reigning champion of our nation’s most prestigious road race, the Milo Marathon (champion in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016). Last year, she became the only Filipino marathoner to join the Olympics. And just last month, she won the 21K race in the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon — clocking 1:16:27 to break the Philippine record.

Are these results not good enough for PATAFA? Track and field is one discipline where the results are measurable. You know who’s the fastest. Unlike volleyball or ping-pong or badminton or football where the choice of representative is often subjective, track and field is objective. It’s time-based.

I asked Jonel, whose family and Motorace company sponsors Ms. Tabal, why PATAFA insisted on their way (training and coaching).

“I agree with your thoughts on PATAFA encouraging all athletes to find better ways to improve,” said Jonel. “I think what has to be recognized is that there is not only one way to train an athlete to improve. I believe it is a trial and error process. Once the formula is found then stick with it and build from it.

“In the case of Joy, her training format which suits her is different from other athletes who are under any NSA. And the results of the recent 21K in Ottawa will prove that. Let’s not forget she did bring home the silver in the SEA Games held in Singapore.”

This training program of Joy included a stint in Japan. There, she was introduced to new coaches and new methods of training and she was pushed to her limits. Now, she’s in Tuscany, Italy. She trained there for two months and will train for several more weeks. Part of her intense regimen includes high altitude training in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Joy is also at home (literally and figuratively) in Cebu and she thrives here. Why force her to train in Manila? And with the case of Jonel and Motorace spending hundreds of thousands of pesos for Joy’s training, isn’t the government lucky? PATAFA doesn’t have to spend but in return they reap the benefits of the international training of Joy. No expenses. No usage of their coaches and facilities. And in exchange, they have Joy Tabal and her possible gold, silver or bronze medal? Being a businessman, I’d conclude that this is an irresistable deal. PATAFA should be thankful.

The good news si: Cebuanos and running aficionados are relieved that our country’s top marathoner is included in the Southeast Asian Games roster for the Kuala Lumpur event in August.

With her training schedule, I asked Jonel Borromeo, who has supported Joy in her training and international competition, for updates. Here’s Jonel:

“Joy Tabal has been training in Tuscany, Italy for the last 2 months and will be there for another 2 months with the last 3 weeks focused on high altitude training in St. Moritz, Switzerland. If I’m not mistaken, it’s 2500 meters elevation and super dry air. According to her, the current training is quite different from that of Japan.

“In Japan, programs were focused on her ability to push her limits to her full capacity. In Italy, she is pegged with runners who run much faster than her; the result of that is she realizes she can actually do more. She understands her potential.”

With her training staff, they’re a complete group. “Her support team consists of a head coach, strengthening coach, nutritionist, physiotherapist, psychologist and a doctor who specializes in high level athletes. All are present from start to finish of training.. yes, impressive,” said Jonel Borromeo.

One more person to thank for Joy’s success: her coach Philip Dueñas.

3×3 Basketball

Kobe Paras, Jeron Teng, J. R. Quiñahan. Kiefer Ravena. They comprise our Philippine squad for the 3-on-3 World Championships in Nantes, France.

What’s 3×3? It’s fast. It’s quick shooting and rebounding. It’s a half-court game played in 10 minutes with the first team to score 21 points the winners.

In our first game against Romania, Team PHI won, 21-15. Our best player? The 6-foot-6 son of Benjie Paras who’s the namesake of Mr. Bryant. Kobe Paras is good. He’s tall. He can shoot from beyond the 2-point line. He can dribble behind-the-back and sprint towards the goal for a layup. 

Thanks to YouTube, you can watch all the basketball action. In Game 2, we faced the host nation France. While we competed strongly in the early minutes, our defense was weak and it allowed the tall Frenchmen to score uncontested shots. They were also terrific from beyond the arc. The final score? An easy 22-11 victory for the hosts.

Next, we play Slovenia. Seeded No. 2, they’re strong. And it’s a must-win scenario for us because only the top two teams in Group B (of five teams) advance. France and Slovenia are the favorites. (After Slovenia, we play El Salvador.)

This sport is gaining popularity, thanks to this announcement: 3-on-3 will be a new sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This is an outstanding decision by the IOC. Not only is basketball one of the planet’s most followed of games, but 3-on-3 is exciting. I’m 101 percent sure that it will be one of the most popular events when the Olympics begin in July 24, 2020.

Are professionals allowed? Absolutely. Can you imagine if the U.S. will pick its best to join? I did a little online research and some have suggested this team: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. (As to why there are four players, there’s a substitute: three on the court and one on the bench.) Can you imagine these four playing in Tokyo?

“Your ideal 3-on-3 player is really a guard-skilled big,” said Troy Justice, the NBA’s senior director of international basketball. “Kevin Durant would translate very well. A 3-point shot is worth two points, and inside the arc is worth one point. So the teams I’ve watched — I’ve done a lot of scouting globally with 3-on-3 and watched some of the best players and teams and the strategies they implement. It’s a lot of 3-point shooting and getting to the rim. The one other thing you need is a good rim protector, a strong big that can rebound and defend. Then you need three knock-down great shooters. But because there’s so much space on the floor, everyone needs to have the ability to put the ball on floor and create their own shot.”

Matt Santangelo, the executive director of Hoopfest, the world’s biggest 3-on-3 event, added: “The game of 3-on-3 basketball is all about spacing, passing angles, screening, motion without the ball and strategy, because you’re in such a confined space. Each player in 3-on-3 needs to have a hybrid skill set, because everyone has to do everything—score, rebound and pass.”

Another thrilling announcement is the news of the 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup hosting. It will be in Manila! No venue selected yet but it will be held in May 2018. Like the WC in France now, there will be 20 teams each for the men and women and there will be individual events that will include a men’s dunk contest, a women’s skills event and a mixed shoot-out.

This is a triple celebration: We get to watch the WC now (on YouTube); Manila hosts next year; and it’s an official Olympic event this 2020.

Rafa

(Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Dominance. That’s the one word to best describe the past two weeks of Rafael Nadal. It started at the Australian Open. Leading 3-1 in the fifth set against Roger Federer, he was at the brink of winning his 15th major. But the Swiss reeled off five straight games to steal the match. Still, that impressive showing from Rafa would continue. He won a 10th title at Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And now, this, “La Decima.” He has played 81 times at the French Open and won 79. How amazing is that record? On his first event as a 19-year-old in 2005, he won in Paris. He won four straight before losing to Robin Soderling. After that loss, he won another five straight before a defeat to Novak Djokovic in 2015. Will this be another five year streak? No less than past champion Gustavo Kuerten has declared: “Rafa could potentially win up to 15 times.” I agree. If you saw any of his seven matches the past 14 days, you’d nod your head in agreement.

Rafa lost only 35 games in seven matches. That’s an average of five games surrendered per match — and these are best-of-five setters. He now moves to world No. 2 and, given his tremendous start and because he has few points to defend in the year’s second half, there is a good chance that he’ll end the year at No.1.

Nadal this 2017 has been the best I’ve seen. He steps forward to strike that crosscourt backhand early. He serves wide or down the T with unpredictable variety. His forehand is so dangerous and offensive that even if he’s in a defensive position, he can hit an outright winner. He also has a new coach in the former Roland Garros winner Carlos Moya, who hails from the same island of Majorca. Best of all, Rafa is healthy. Last year, he had to quit in the third round because of a wrist injury. Today, the only injury inflicted is upon his opponents who have to run side to side and suffer in defeat.

My dad Bunny watched the Madrid Open last month and, watching up close, he noted what we know well: Rafa plays a physical game. Famous in Spain, he’s a bull-fighter; always charging, attacking and aggressive. On the tennis court, what differentiates Rafa is his spin: Unlike a Roger or Sampras who play with flatter shots (thus, less margin for error), the groundstrokes of Rafa clear the net high. They land deeper in the court and kick upon landing. The spin rate exceeds 4,000 rpm.

Humility. That’s the another astonishing word to describe Rafa. (Lucky for us tennis followers, it’s also a fitting word to describe Roger.) In a serious of post-match interviews, Rafa was never cocky or boastful; he credits his success to hard work and dedication. He’s the man who once said, “I think the tennis is only a game. You can lose. You can win. After that? In life, there are much more important things than tennis.”

Rafa now has 15 majors. Roger has 18. Come July 3, the winner of the year’s first two majors will meet in Wimbledon. This early on, I’m hoping for another final between the two. Roger is all-confident; so is the winner two days ago.

Rafa’s 10th crown isn’t the only major story in Paris. There’s also a player who turned 20 just a few days ago and had never won a WTA tournament before. Employing a very aggressive game, her average forehand shot is clocked at 76 mph — faster than Andy Murray’s 73 mph. She scores 50 or more winners per match and she’s the Roland Garros champion. Will write a story soon on Jelena Ostapenko.