The XXX Olympiad: Let the Games begin!

I watched the Opening Ceremony yesterday at 4 A.M. Two SkyCable channels–Solar Sports and TV5–broadcasted live the nearly four-hour-long show.

Fireworks, like a rainbow of explosions, erupted to light the London night. Confetti, instead of rain, showered. James Bond rode the helicopter beside Queen Elizabeth II. Mr. Bean? Ha-ha. He was, as usual, funny, playing “Chariots of Fire” and running by the beach. J. K. Rowling read a passage. And, the greatest British musician, Sir Paul McCartney, serenaded the 60,000 spectators with “Hey Jude.”

Impressive? No and Yes. Anytime you spend $42 million on a single production–then that show ought to be grandiose. And London was. But, compared to the last Opening in Beijing, this one pales in comparison. (Beijing spent $113 million!)

I found London’s show too much. They had too many simultaneous movements. The camera focus would jump from one scene to another too fast–maybe good for action movies but, for a live show of 10,000 volunteers (plus 70 sheep, 12 horses, etc.), I thought it was confusing and hurried.

To me, the show dazzled but did not inspire. The lighting of the torch? The 200 mini-torches was excellent –but maybe it could have been more dramatic? A few more seconds of pause to alert us of the Opening’s most awaited moment? My wife Jasmin and I, after the torches stood combined, were left wondering, “That’s it?”

Again, I’m basing my comparison with Beijing’s opening.

SPEECHES. Of all the portions of the Opening, the part I liked best was serious: when Sebastian Coe and Jacques Rogge spoke. A four-time Olympic medalist, Seb Coe is the head of the London Games. Here’s part of his speech…

“To everyone in this stadium attending our opening ceremony, to every athlete waiting, ready, prepared to take part in these Games, to everyone in every city and village in the world watching as we begin, welcome to London…

“To the athletes gathered here on the eve of this great endeavor, I say that to you is given something precious and irreplaceable. To run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.”

The IOC President Rogge himself gave an excellent speech, talking of this Games as the first ever where all nations have women athletes, with Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia sending female athletes for the first time. He also paid tribute to the hosts, saying:

“This great, sports-loving country is widely recognized as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations.

“The British approach to sport had a profound influence on Pierre de Coubertin, our founder, as he developed the framework for the modern Olympic Movement at the close of the 19th century…

“I offer this thought: Your talent, dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians.

“That honor is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals.”

TEAM PHILS. Our Philippine flag bearer was 21-year-old weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who also competed in 2008. With uniforms designed by Rajo Laurel, our 11-athlete contingent looked plenty–thanks to the usual cast of coaches and officials who outnumber our athletes. Seen all-smiling was a familiar face: Monico Puentevella, the POC chairman.

TO WATCH. Out of the 10,902 athletes competing, only a handful standout as the superstars of superstars. The rivalry all are awaiting? Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte. (One writer terms it “Phelpte.”) Phelps has 14 gold medals and is aiming to be the first male swimmer to win gold at three straight Olympics. Lochte is the defending 400-meter individual medley world champ and beat Phelps at the US Trials. Says Bob Bowman, the coach of Phelps: ‘‘A very rough race. It will be a coach’s dream, but also a spectator’s dream. It will be fantastic.’’

On land, the 100-meter dash is, of course, the most anticipated. Usain Bolt is the record-holder but lost his last race to Yohan Blake. Tyson Gay is healthy. Justin Gatlin is back. And so is another Jamaican, Asafa Powell. These five will sprint come August 5.

Categorized as Olympics

London’s Olympics and Cebu’s Ironman

Only nine days remain before the Ironman 70.3 begins at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort. Cebu has hosted plenty of big-time sporting events before. Last year’s Davis Cup tennis events against Japan and Taiwan were huge. So have been the ALA Promotions-organized boxing fights. I recall watching Dennis Rodman slamming a dunk in Mandaue. We struck gold in Dancesport during the SEA Games of 2005. And last week, the World Eskrima Kali Arnis championships were held at the CICC.

But there’s never been as much excitement as the August 5, 2012 swim-bike-run spectacle. Over 1,700 triathletes—including Jenson Button and his sexy supermodel girlfriend, Jessica Michibata—are landing in the shores of Mactan next weekend. In swimming pools all over Cebu—from Casino Español to Abellana to Holiday Gym—the waves are splashing with freestyle strokes. Everyone’s practicing.

Yesterday, together with Neil Montesclaros, I biked 72 kms. from Consolacion to Catmon. Along the route, dozens of cyclists—on a Wednesday—are cramming their pedaling rotations.

Runners? Wake up at 5:15 A.M. and you’ll encounter sweaty, sleeveless-wearing athletes pounding our newly-asphalted streets.

Why does this Ironman have an accompanying “70.3” number? That’s because the race totals 70.3 miles. In our usual kilometer readings, that’s 1.9 + 90 + 21. That’s a swim of 1.9 kms., a 90K bike ride and a half-marathon run.

Cebu awaits—and welcomes—our triathlete visitors.

DONDI. Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, my fellow Rotarian from the RC Cebu West and a top civic leader (he’s the president of the Cebu Business Club), is now in London, England.

“Not really to watch, John!” was his reply when I asked if he was there to witness the Olympic Games. Dondi, whose brother, Mark Joseph, is the head of Philippine swimming, emailed me yesterday a few observations…

“There is a palpable buzz in the air and while many Londoners with their usual aplomb consider the Games a a bit of a bother, the city is gleaming, literally and figuratively. Signs of last-minute preparations are everywhere as Olympic-related event venues are being spruced up and constructed.

“The weather is beautiful with temperatures ranging from 17 to 31 with only the sun to greet you. People are in shorts and T-shirts and around parks, large and small. All have people sunbathing in Olympic-marked sun chairs.

“I didn’t plan to get involved in any event but am now determined to try and watch the torch along its route to the stadium. It’s simply contagious and I want to be part of the greatest show on earth!

“Tickets to the Opening are over 5000usd. Yup 5,000. Too rich for me. But everything else is going on and there are concerts galore! This is just fantastic!!!

“And by the way, with the end of the rains and the entry of the beautiful sun, the skirts are really shorter! Beautiful… ;-)”

PHL OLYMPICS. What time is the Opening Ceremony? It will be (Philippine time) two days from now… at 4:30 A.M. on Saturday. It is expected to be shown on both Solar Sports and Star Sports.

With our Philippine delegation, did you know that our 11 Olympians will be the smallest contingent we’ve sent—if my research is correct—in 80 years (during the 1932 Los Angeles Games).

Back in 1924, we were the first Southeast Asian country to join the Olympics. Excluding the 1980 Olympics (when we boycotted Moscow), we have never missed participating in the Summer Games. Thus far, we’ve accumulated two silver medals and seven bronze medals. Of these nine medals, we won five in boxing and two apiece in athletics and swimming.

Our last medal? It was Onyok Velasco’s silver in Atlanta, 1996. Gold? Nah. Even if there’s a P5 million bounty (Sports Incentive Act, RA 9064) offered by the government, there are no takers. Or, rather, no one’s good enough to take gold.

And here’s one more trivia: After Mongolia won their first gold medal in 2008, we now hold the infamous record as the nation with the most medals… but no gold medal.

The Michael Phelps of the Philippines?

His name is Maxime Rooney. You’ve never heard of him before. The only Rooney you and I know of is, of course, Wayne Rooney — the football star of Manchester United.

Maxime is 14. And, guess what? Though he’s lived in the US all his life, he’s half Filipino. Maxime is a swimmer. Not your ordinary varsity star — but someone whose best times on the pool can rival those of a younger Michael Phelps.

It was Harry Radaza, the sports czar and City Councilor of Lapu-Lapu City, who emailed me this amazing find a couple of weeks ago.

“I watched this kid named MAXIME ROONEY compete 2 weeks ago in a lot of different swim events,” Harry said. “He blew out the competition (they were 18 year olds and he is only 14).”

How good is Maxime? In the 14-and-under category of ALL swimmers in the United States, he ranks the following: 1st, 100m freestyle; 1st, 200m freestyle; 1st, 400m freestyle; 1st, 200m backstroke; 2nd, 100m backstroke; 1st, 200m butterfly; 2nd, 100m butterfly; 1st, 400m individual medley.

Of the thousands of Michael Phelps-wannabes in America, he is the young Michael Phelps. Want to hear even more scintillating news? When Phelps joined the 13-14 years old category, his best time in the 200m freestyle was 1:55.37. That ranks him 8th in the all time list in the US.

Maxime Rooney? Better than Phelps: 1:54:41 — ranking him No. 5 in the all-time fastest list.

“Why am I telling you all this about Maxime Rooney?” asked Harry Radaza. “Well, his father is my cousin. His father’s mom remarried that’s why he has a non-Filipino sounding last name. Maxime is half Filipino, of course. His grandmother is the sister of my uncle, Congressman Radaza. She grew up in Lapu Lapu City.”

Harry, his wife Mayann and their son Zach were fortunate because, just a few weeks ago in the US, they witnessed Maxime’s record-setting 1:54:41 time.

Keenan Rooney (Maxime’s dad), Mayann Radaza, Maxime Rooney, Zack and Harry Radaza

“Maxime grew up in the US but he is looking to come to Cebu next year to do some volunteer work by training swimmers there,” Harry said. “This would also be a good chance for him to meet Philippine swimming personalities and coaches as he is looking at something 4 years from now – the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. And guess who he would like to represent? Team Philippines, of course!”

Upon receiving Harry’s email, I forwarded this to Guy Concepcion, the Olympian swimmer who represented our nation in Seoul, Korea in 1988.

“Maxime’s times are quite impressive, especially for his age,” said Guy. “As of now, just based on who I know in the Philippine swimming scene, there would only be one guy faster than him in the 200m Freestyle, and he will race in London in August.”

That would mean Jessie Lacuna, the only Filipino male swimmer to compete in next week’s Olympics.

“For the 400m Freestyle, there’s another Pinoy training in the States, but I don’t know his current status, but his personal best time is faster than Maxime so far. Maxime’s 100m butterfly time would rank him high in the Philippines now also.

“Anyway, I hope he keeps up this impressive improvement year per year. I am glad he is looking to join the Philippines for Rio 2016. I hope in the meantime, Maxime also joins other competitions like the SEA Games, Asian Games, even the annual SEA Age Group, representing the Philippines, of course.”

Guy advised that we send Maxime’s accomplishments to the head of the Philippine swimming NSA. That’s Mark Joseph, the brother of our fellow Cebuano, Dondi Joseph, and one I’ve communicated with when I went to the Beijing Olympics four years ago.     “Present Maxime’s Filipino background, therefore, the Olympic committee can determine his true eligibility.  Most important, Maxime should always send his times so if there is an upcoming major competition (SEA Games, Asian Games, etc), then they can see if Maxime can compete. I hope he does,” said Guy.

Yes, I hope Maxime does.

Categorized as Swimming

Which Dream Team is better, 2012 or 1992?

Kobe Bryant created a Ruping-like controversial storm last week when he broadcasted this boast: “It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”

Calling today’s USA Olympic basketball team “a bunch of racehorses who are incredibly athletic,” he insulted the 1992 squad, saying they “consisted mainly of players at the tail end of their careers.”

Ouch. Charles Barkley, the offensive rebounder, took offense, saying, “How old is Kobe Bryant? He’s 34? And he’s calling us old? … Other than Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team.”

Now that reply’s a slam dunk. Michael Jordan added: “For him to make that comparison, it’s one of those things where it creates conversation. I guess we’ll never know. I’d like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers, you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn’t learn from them.”

MJ is right. Team 1992 was composed of Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Christian Laettner, David Robinson, Magic Johnson, Barkley and Jordan. (All are Hall of Famers except for Laettner.)

In the Barcelona Olympics, they beat Angola by 68 points, Croatia by 33, Germany by 43, Brazil by 44, Spain by 42, Puerto Rico by 38, Lithuania by 51 and, in the final, beat Croatia, 117-85. Their average margin: 44 points.

So, 1992 or 2012? Who’s better? The funny thing is, the London Games haven’t even started! Team USA hasn’t even won a single game.    Still, if this hypothetical encounter were to happen, what would be the result?

One dominant theme arises: Size matters. “There’s no question about it — we’d kill them,” said Ewing. “We were much bigger. Our bigs were much bigger and if not the same, [even] more athletic. We had Magic, Michael. I think we would dominate them.”

While the 2012 US team only has one natural center with Tyson Chandler at 7’1”, the ’92 team had plenty of giants: Robinson (7’1”), Ewing (7’0”), Laettner (6’11”), Malone (6’9”). And should we forget, Bird and Magic stood at 6-foot-9.

“Because we don’t have a lot of big guys, Carmelo, LeBron and Kevin Durant will all be at the 4 [power forward] and 5 [center],” said coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Andre Iguodala will be at one of the bigs, too. We have to compensate our loss of big guys with athleticism.” The coach added: “The quickness of this team, this is the quickest team I’ve ever coached, including U.S. teams. We have to build on that. Instead of talking about the fact that we don’t have many centers — it would different if we had Dwight and Chris Bosh. We’d play a little bit differently. We don’t, so we have to rely on our strength, which is versatility, quickness, speed.”

In the end, all this trash talk serves one purpose: to draw attention. And, for that alone, shifting the focus from Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to the American basketball team, why, that’s good for Kobe and LeBron.

And you know how good Americans are at trash-talking. Very often, these words scare the enemy. That’s an added purpose. Still, some players don’t like this verbal war, LeBron included. “It’s nothing fun about it,” said LeBron. “That’s a great team, we understand that. They set the standard for a lot of us. We’re trying to make our own mark so that teams will come after us.”

Carmelo Anthony agrees. “Why can’t it all just be love? It’s always got to be us against them or them against us,” said Anthony. “We all USA basketball players, man. I’m not here to sit and say we’re better than them, or better than this or that. We’re trying to make a statement with the game we have. What they did back in ’92 will never be duplicated. We’re just trying to start our own thing and hopefully continue our legacy.”

As for Deron Williams, he wants this issue settled, joking, “I think right now, if they come out here, we’ll beat them,” Williams said. “Right now.”

Yep, when MJ is 49 years old!

Sure shot! The A-Team to strike gold

Twenty years ago in Barcelona, a group of giants named Magic, Larry, Michael & Co. won the Olympic gold medal in basketball. Their average winning margin? An unfathomable 43.8 PPG. That was the 1992 Dream Team, acknowledged as the greatest ever cast of athletes assembled—of any sport.

Now, it’s 2012. It’s London. Will Kobe, Kevin, LeBron & Co. become today’s “Avengers” and win gold? Absolutely. As sure as basketball was invented by an American, Team USA will beat Spain, Argentina, France and Russia.

Look at the roster: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Guodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. These are the 12 best ballplayers of our planet’s seven billion inhabitants.

Durant? Bryant? James? Those three alone can beat the five-man squad of Tunisia.

“When I think about ’08, we were really good then. But like me, LeBron and D-Will, all of us talk about, you’ve got to think about how much better all of us are now than we were in ’08. All of us as players, we shoot the ball better. Guys are more athletic, guys are more confident. One through 12, no question we’re deeper than we were in ’08.” Who said those words? Chris Paul, the 6-footer point guard.

In Beijing, Team USA won by an average of 32.2 points in the elimination round. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Australia, 116-85. In the semis, Argentina got trounced, 101-81. And, in the finals, it was closer than expected: 118-107 versus Spain.

While 2008 was The Redeem Team, the 2004 squad was The Nightmare Team as the US (with Dwayne Wade, LeBron and Carmelo Anthony) lost to eventual gold medalists Argentina in the semis.

This 2012, the country of Barack Obama wants to ensure that they’re all-smiles during the Awarding.

One man who’ll savor his first time Olympian status is Kevin Durant who, at age 19 four years ago, was not selected. “It was almost end of the world,” said Durant, “especially seeing those guys win it—celebrating the gold in Beijing. I couldn’t stand it.”

LeBron? The 27-year-old has the opportunity to match a record that only one other human being has accomplished: Michael Jordan. In 1992, MJ earned the MVP and Finals MVP awards, the NBA ring plus an Olympic gold medal.

Kobe? He’s the “senior citizen” (oldest player) at age 33.

There are a few notable no-shows: Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Miami teammates Wade and Chris Bosh. They’re injured.

Studying the line-up, it’s obvious what Team USA lacks: height. Of the 12, only three players stand 6’10” and taller. Spain has the Big Three: Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka—two brothers who are All-Stars plus a player who led the NBA in blocked shots (3.7/game) last season. Are the Americans concerned? Ever the confident people, they say, No way! As their one true center, 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler puts it, “we’ve got some hybrids.”

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo answers this lack-of-big-men concern: “People keep throwing Spain in our face, ’What about the Gasols?’ And I say, ’Well, what about the Gasols? Our guys play against them every day. And matchups always go two ways. They have to be able to guard our quickness, our speed, our versatility, and so I’m not really concerned about that.” He added: “There are a lot of 6-9 and 6-10 guys who are much better than 7-footers.”

“The United States will rely on the same formula it did in winning the gold medal in Beijing when it overwhelmed every opponent with its full-court pressure and transition game—until the final, when it took scintillating shooting to hold off Spain,” wrote Fox Sports’ Billy Witz.

Athleticism. Speed. Offense. They’ll spread the court and drive to the basket to create opportunities. Added Matthew Kitchen of NBC Olympics: “You realize how stacked Team USA really is: six rings, six scoring titles, four MVPs, the reigning Sixth Man and Defensive Player of the Year.”

Dream Team Part 2? Yes. The A-Team.

At Wimbledon, will Andy be the Great Briton?

In tennis, the past nine Grand Slam men’s singles champions were either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. Not today. Not in Wimbledon. Not when, at 9 P.M. tonight (Phil. time) and over Star Sports, we have the chance to witness a historic and different ending.

Roger or Andy? Simple question, right? Yes. But the answers are complex. As a tennis observer the past 26 years, it’s obvious that Roger has the edge. He’s smiled and carried that golden trophy six times on Centre Court. (The last non-Rafa/Novak major final? The 2010 Australian Open between Roger and Andy—and we know who won that in straight sets.)

And so, while my head proclaims a Swiss winner, my hope is otherwise. Go, Great Britain! It’s been 76 loooooooong years since a British male player won at home. Fred Perry—whose name is a major clothing brand—was that last Briton. Can Andy break the spell? Do a Harry Potter-like wizardry act using the racquet as his sword to slay the giant? Or, since my daughter Jana thinks Andy looks like the Spiderman lead actor, Andrew Garfield, maybe he can weave his magic web to entrap RF? I hope so.

“The roof is going to blow off this thing if Murray wins on Sunday,” said doubles great Mark Woodforde. London, readying to host the Olympics in 19 days, will celebrate with July 4-like fireworks if Andy wins. He’ll be venerated—like Queen Elizabeth II was during the Diamond Jubilee. (Royalty, in fact, will be in attendance as Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has confirmed her attendance; the Queen herself might watch!)

Murray wants to emulate one person today. “LeBron James would be a good example,” said Murray. “He came very close to winning quite a lot of times. Him winning this year I’m sure was massive… I would say for me I guess it’s a similar situation. I’ve been close a lot of times and not quite made it.”

Three times, Murray has reached a Grand Slam final. Thrice, he’s lost. Will this be fourth-time-lucky? Ivan Lendl hopes so. Murray’s coach (and an 8-time major winner) has never won Wimbledon. Can you imagine the scream of the stoic Lendl if his student wins? “It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, you know, if I play well, I’m capable of winning,” Murray said. “But, yeah, if you look at his record here over the past 10 years or so, it’s incredible. So the pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else, I guess it would be different. But there will be less on me on Sunday, you know, because of who he is.”

FEDERER. “He,” of course, is the greatest ever: Roger F. Here’s an interesting fact: head-to-head, Andy leads Roger, 8-7. This should give the Scot extra confidence.

But for Roger, here’s added motivation: If he wins, he’ll pocket Major Title No. 17, plus, he’ll step up two notches in the ATP ladder and become world No. 1—tying Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks (at the top spot) and seven Wimby victories.

Sampras? He’s picking his buddy, saying, “I’ve always felt Roger’s the sort of guy that, if I’m going to see my records broken, I’d hope that it’s someone like him. I like his game. I like what he’s about. Just a very classy player. And we’re friends. Maybe makes it a little bit easier that it’s someone I genuinely like and consider a friend.”

(Interesting note: Who will British Honorary Consul Moya Jackson cheer for tonight? A lifelong Roger fan, will she switch sides to clap for UK to win?)

Back to the semifinals when Roger beat Novak, what a masterful performance. If you’re a Roger fan, you must be grinning and liking his chances. He was immaculate. His aces. His forehand was lethal.

To me, the two key points tonight are these: If Roger’s offensive weapons are precise and on-target, he’ll win. That’s how he won six W. titles. Andy? He can’t be a counter-puncher forever. He has to attack. You can’t just wait for Roger to dictate the game.

As I told today’s birthday celebrant Macky Michael, this Andy-Roger final is the dream Wimbledon finale. Watch it tonight at 9!

100K run? Why not! says Joy R. Polloso

Officially, the “R” in her middle name stands for Roset, but, if I were to make buot, that would mean another word: Resilient.

Jovita Polloso is not an elite super-athlete. She’s not 92-lbs. slim like Mary Grace de los Santos nor was she a striker for the high school football squad. Instead, Joy is one of Vis-Min’s top corporate executives and, thus, works long, mall-like hours for a company as familiar to you and I as Coca-Cola or Ford. That’s Ayala-and Joy is the General Manager for the Ayala Malls-Cebu.

Last Sunday, she joined the 100-km. race. When I asked why on earth someone would journey that far, her reply was… “And why not???”

She added: “I’ve tried marathons and have crossed a bit to ultra running when I joined the All-Women 50K in March. I was inspired by the stories of other runners and got excited at the thought of running ultra…”

But 100 kms.? From Pinamungahan to Toledo to Naga to San Fernando to Carcar to  Barili to Aloguinsan then back to Pinamungahan?

“I never imagined I’d reach this far in running,” said Joy, who finished in 19 hours and 10 minutes-good enough for 7th place among 15 women. “I’m having fun! Why? Because I look at the training not as a burden but as part of my fitness routine. Hence, I don’t allow myself to be ruled by the demands on mileage and don’t feel guilty when I don’t perform the programs by my coach, Philip Dueñas.”

Joy’s a winner because of her positive mental attitude. She did not think of the agony-instead, like her name, she savored the joys of running.

“I didn’t look at it as enduring pain but thought of how good the feeling is to be able to run all of the 7 municipalities/cities of mid-west Cebu,” she said. “I was thrilled at the thought of how nice Cebu is, as I pass through historical and eco-tourism sites on foot. I was telling myself that if I could do this, then that would be something my children can share later with their own families.”

Prior to last weekend, Joy did eight 42Ks: two in Singapore, one Sundown (Singapore), two in Condura, two in the Cebu City Marathon, and one last April in Nashville, Tennessee called the Country Music Marathon. She also did a 50K last March.

Did you feel like quitting? I asked.     “Nope, I just imagined the first 50K like a 21K to a full marathon. All along I was reminded that the real competition is in the last 50K. And I saw it myself when we were reaching the 75K to 90K marks, as I was passing through runners looking exhausted while I still feel strong enough with “emo’ high in my competitive spirit. My visualization included how I would approach the finish line in my whole piece and still smiling.”

Amazingly, during the run, Joy neither got injured nor suffered any blisters. She narrated a few tips: Months earlier, she added core exercises, circuit training and body balance/yoga.

On race day, she wore her pair of “lucky socks;” she applied petroleum jelly every 5 kms. and, at KM 50, she rested and “allowed the feet to breathe.” Plus: plenty of salt intake and solid intake over gel or chocolates. And lots of stretching prior to climbing the hills.

“I also followed my coach’s advise: run first using my flat strike so I don’t tire my calves during the first 20k+ uphill of Toledo going to Naga. Then used my midfoot at certain distances and then heel strikes. I trained using all of the foot strikes,” said Joy.

Plus, an important factor: the support team. Joy’s eldest son, Jasper, was the senior support crew. “My sister and cousins even traveled to Pinamungahan to send me off,” she said.

“More importantly, my attire! Joke but seriously yes, I changed as often as I could so I would have nice photos to keep! My medical kit was complete, my food supply could last me for a week.”

Joy added: “As a person, I am the type that will persevere and give my all-out determination if I want to accomplish something. I make sure I pour my heart into it. In short, I’m such a passionate person and I get excited on events in my life whether I like doing it at the beginning or not.”


Why do the 100K?

“And why not??? I’ve tried several marathons already and have crossed a bit to ultra running when I joined the All-Women 50K in March. But actually, just like a typical runner who is inspired by the stories and experiences of other runners, I also get excited at the thought of running ultra distances. By October of 2011, I was visualizing myself of participating the Singapore Sundown 100K  supposedly in June this year. So much so that, when we were getting our race packs for the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon last Dec. 212 which was my second participation to this event, I was determined to register in the Sundown 100K event, but what they had there was the Sundown 42K of May 2012. A 100K for Singapore by June 2012 was a vision I had crafted for myself. And you know why I love SingaporeJ but it didn’t happen. So when this first 100K ultra event organized by Cebu Ultra runners came about, it opened up for my interest again to pursue my 100K by June of 2012. I was more than excited to imagine on the possibility of my vision getting realized in my homeplace.”

Did you feel like quitting at any time?

“Nope, I just imagined the first 50K as like a 21K to a full marathon. All along I was always reminded by my training coach who gave me the program, that the real competition is in the second half- the last 50K. And I saw it myself when we were reaching the 75K to 90K marks, as I was passing through runners who went ahead of me and looking too tired and exhausted while I still feel strong enough with  “emo’ high in my competitive spirit. My visualization included how I would approach in the finish line in my whole piece and still smiling. But ensuring all the time, that I was good and is able to move around after the event. The day after should be taken as resuming to my work schedule, I have my responsibilities in the office to attend to and my family. Joining this event should not have hampered and deprived me from doing my other roles in life. ( I was more concerned of these things over the other matters)”

How did you persevere (what were your thoughts) throughout the run?

“Deducting the number of municipalities/cities that was part of the route. J Actually, I was given a program to cover the 100K race, by my coach. And I did not run alone. I was with a fellow young gentleman runner from Ungo whom I have arranged to run with me all throughout the race before I signed up. I was more thrilled at the thought of how nice Cebu is, as I pass through some historical and eco-tourism sites on foot.”

No blisters and injuries? How did you do it?

“I prepared in my program just the basics, use my proven shoes when it comes to long distance running, the right socks, would you believe I have a pair of “lucky socks” that I always wear every long distance event that I joined in. Applied petroleum jelly consistently every 5KM to all possibly affected parts of my body. When we stopped at KM 50,  we took time to rest a bit and allowed our feet to breathe. Salt intake, solid intake over gel or chocolates.   Stretching in betweens was as important especially before we move on to an ascending elevation  (uphills). I just followed strictly again what my coach advised me, run first using my flat strike so I don’t tire my calves early during the first 20k +++ uphill of Toledo going to Naga. Then used my midfoot at certain distances and then heel strikes. I trained using all of the foot strikes. Aside from my training with coach Philip, my complementing fitness program with my other PT in the gym included core exercises and circuit training to support my muscles used in the run. I went a couple of body balance/yoga type of exercises too.”

How important was your support team?

“Very important. And I didn’t mean only the crew in my support vehicle, I meant the well wishers, my friends and fellow organizers’ moral support counted a lot. My sister and cousins traveled to Pinamungahan to send me off. My eldest son, Jasper was my senior support crew together with our family driver, Froilan and my other personal asst. I wrote everything what to give me at what distance. More importantly, my attire!!! Joke but seriously yes, I changed as often as I could so I would have nice photos to keep. My medical kit was complete, my food supply was something that could last me for a week and hydration schedule. I even brought with me ice bags etc.”

What tips can you give to marathoners/ultramarathoners?

“I made a checklist on what I should have, before I officially registered myself. 1) asked a fellow runner to be my pacer all throughout 2) I went into medical check up and stress test, then asked for a medical clearance 3) spoke wholeheartedly to my coach if I am capable of running a 100K 4) looked into my earned mileage, maybe a bit short with the distance required but hey– my heart and mind were ready to cover up for the difference. 5) prepared my attire from shoes to top gears and blinkers/headlights required 6) asked the program from my coach  that I should follow during the race 7) trained as much as I can, if i didn’t run the required distance, I covered it up for cross training, a little of swimming, fitness at the gym and hey Zumba for fun at the Terraces, why not? 7) I always remember my coach telling me, winding down or tapering if closing to the event date, and recovery and conditioning after the event. 8) nutrition plan is as important – for the week when the event is happening,  protein intake (carbo deplete) from early days of the week then carbo loading from mid of the week till event date. 10) Get a relaxing body massage at least 2 days before the race. 11) specially added to my  list consistently – a visit to an adoration chapel, a prayer intention and mass offered days prior to the race.  And lastly, my runner friend Mitch placed one more activity to my check list- for the first time on this 100K — (12.) a few acupuncture visits.”

Ironman 70.3 Cebu: All ready except for….

… Potholes on the road.

I met Guy Concepcion yesterday. After he landed in Cebu from Manila, he traveled straight to Marriott Hotel and partook of their lavish buffet. We sat down after breakfast at 9:10 A.M.

Rene “Guy” Concepcion is no ordinary guy. Next to Fred Uytengsu, Jr., he’s the man behind the Ironman 70.3 in Mactan. He’s also an Olympian, having joined the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a swimmer together with Akiko Thomson and Eric Buhain.

“We have 1,700 participants for Cebu, all excited,” said Guy. “This compares to the 500 participants in the first year in Camarines Sur. In the second year in Camsur, we had 700. Last year, we had 1,100.”

If you think 1,700 is plenty—think again. Hundreds more wanted to participate. (This, despite the hefty $275 fee.) That number could easily have ballooned to 2,500 had all the waiting list and interested first-timers been accepted.

“We want to limit the number this year,” he said. “Next year, if all goes well, we’ll accommodate more.”

Guy is in-charge of the race operations. And since two of the country’s biggest triathlon races are held in Cebu this 2012—the XTERRA last March and the Ironman 70.3 in August—then he’s been to Cebu dozens of times thus far.

“Welcome back!” I told him. Welcome back? he asked. “I’ve been here too many times!”

Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa is ready. So are the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Cebu—the threesome co-hosts. So is, happy for Guy to report, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. “We’re glad to hear that the bridge repairs are nearly finished,” he said. “At first, reports came out that it won’t be done before August. This is good news.”

Thanks to the active participation of Gov. Gwen Garcia, all preparations are in place. Last week in Manila, Gov. Gwen sat beside Mr. Uytengsu and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza in a glitzy launching at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.

Guy’s only concerns? Potholes. No, not the ones in SRP. “When I saw those huge holes at the SRP a few months back, we were concerned. Imagine the cyclists traveling at 45-kph passing through those? That would be scary. But thanks to the DPWH and other agencies, they’ve been asphalted.”

Guy is troubled with the remaining potholes in certain sections of the reclamation area: The road leading to the tunnel; the road leading to the CICC. He hopes, in a couple of weeks’ time, for these to be fixed. (Paging, DPWH!)

As to the rest of the Cebuano public, those who won’t be joining but are interested to join the revelry?

“Please cheer! This is such a huge event for Cebu and for sports and it’s exciting to watch,” he said. “Spectators can line up the roads along the reclamation area. If one leaves very early, one can be in Mactan to watch the bike and run portions.”

Inconveniences? Plenty of areas will be closed to traffic—half of the M. Fernan Bridge, the entire SRP, portions of the Reclamation Area, most of Punta Engaño—from 6 to 11 A.M. on race day. (Proper advisories will be posted soon.) Access to Mactan and the airport, though, will still be open.

“We ask for patience and for the Cebuanos to come out this August 5 to support and cheer,” said Guy. “Cheering means a lot to the participants, many of whom are foreign athletes.”

Apart from the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman race—which will fire off 32 days from now—Guy and I talked a lot about other sports stuff.

Like swimming. Guy joined the 10K Fina Marathon Swimming World Cup in Israel last April. He timed two hours, 40 minutes. (In most local triathlon races, Guy is the first one off the swim portion. At the XTERRA race last March in Liloan, he clocked five minutes in the 500-meter swim!)

We talked about Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte. “Phelps has a way to elevate himself during the big occasions,” said Guy. “Expect him to win again in London.”

Finally, in one of those you-won’t-believe-who’s-joining moments, Guy revealed that one international superstar will be joining our Ironman.

The celebrity? (Hint: Not Lance.) Soon, Guy will announce that guy’s name.

Randy writes from London and Wimbledon

I hope Lance Armstrong is innocent. I hope that, during his 7-year reign as Tour de France champion, he didn’t inject or swallow anything illegal. I hope Lance is telling the truth. Though he never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in over 500 tests spanning 15 years, doubt encircles Mr. Armstrong. Almost everybody in cycling doped. Pedaling at 50-kph for six hours is grueling—that’s why the elite cyclists doped. Are we to believe Lance when he says he’s innocent? I hope he is. His story—especially his survival from testicular cancer (with barely a 40 percent chance of survival)— is one of mankind’s most inspiring. For that story to be blemished with drug accusations is catastrophic. For sports. For the word “honesty.” For cancer survivors.

After years and years of accusations, this one is the most serious. No less than the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is pursuing charges against Lance. If proven guilty, his 7 TdFs will be stripped off his resume list. Worse, he can’t join any future triathlons.

The USADA says that at least 10 former Lance teammates have testified saying they saw him dope. Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis are the two most prominent. Why would they lie? Having been convicted of drug usage themselves and stripped of their titles, why would they lie?

We don’t know. Again, I hope they’re lying. But all these raise doubts. While we were relieved that the U.S. Federal Government stopped their case earlier this year—we thought that was the end of Lance’s woes. Now, this. And this is even worse.

PHELPS. I’m a newbie swimmer. Only after registering for last March’s XTERRA off-road triathlon race that I practiced free-style swimming. But this latest rivalry has got me hooked to swimming news.

Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte. I was in Beijing four years ago during the Olympics. Though my wife Jasmin and I never got the chance to enter the Water Cube, we know the Olympics’ biggest star: Phelps. He won eight gold medals in China. He was the lone star.
Not in 2012. His fellow American Ryan Lochte is beating him. He beat him last year. He beat him again a few days ago in the U.S. qualifying. Their anticipated side-by-side rivalry will be London’s most-watched.

WIMBLEDON. Randy del Valle is a top executive of the oil giant Shell. A few years back, when he was asked if he wanted to relocate from Cebu to London, he said yes in a millisecond. A sports fanatic, Randy sent me a recent email…

“Exciting times for London! On the first day last Monday, my wife Christine and I watched Wimbledon. We did the ‘queue’ and it took us 2 hours. Interesting players were the young Americans Sloan Stephens, Christina McHale and Melanie Oudin—all promising and ready replace the Williams sisters. It was also the day that Venus Williams got eliminated.

“I was able to see the match of ‘marathon man’ Nicolas Mahut. Main draw that we watched were Federer, Sharapova, Djokovic and Cljisters.

“My son Luigi is a member of the British Tennis Association. He takes weekly lessons here in London and he became an automatic member—he is enjoying the game and plays tennis in school and outside school. With this, he was given tickets on July 8 (finals) in Court No. 1—of course, with one parent so I will take him to the finals. We will however not watch the men’s finals (which is in Centre Court) but the finals of the Juniors and the ‘veterans.’

“Big news now that Nadal lost in the 2nd round! Well, Murray’s draw is getting better and we are rooting for Andy to win this year’s Wimbledon!”

Olympics? Not everyone, even if you’re a Londoner, is guaranteed a ticket. “There was a ballot for UK residents last year and only 12% of those who applied had a chance to buy the tickets,” said Randy. Lucky for his family, they were chosen and will watch the Olympic Swimming Finals on August 1. “I got tickets for me, Christine and Luigi,” he said. “Also, we are watching the quarterfinals of football with my sister Ruby Joy and her family.”

As the London Olympics arrive, will surely get more first-hand updates from Randy.

Categorized as Tennis