CEBU CITY – Rizzini Alexis Gomez, daughter of former PBA player Rhoel and muse of Alaska back in the pro league's opening in 2012, died on Tuesday morning after a long bout with lung cancer.
She was 25.
News of her death rocked Cebu’s close-knit basketball community especially since the younger Gomez was a constant presence at her family’s basketball games in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi).
Her father Rhoel coached Rizzini's younger brother, Kim, for a time with the University of Cebu Webmasters.
The 5-foot-10 Rizzini was a popular figure in this city, riding high on a wave of successes after getting crowned as Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism International 2012 and Miss Tourism International 2012.
Later that year, she was also tapped to be the Alaska Aces muse during the opening ceremonies of the PBA’s 2012-2013 season.
Rizzini was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years later and Rhoel eventually begged off from coaching to attend to his ailing daughter.
With the family's finances getting drained, the PBA family tried to pitch in as Rizzini was made one of the beneficiaries of the 'Hoops for a Cause' game that featured players from Ginebra, Alaska and Purefoods on Friday.
A registered nurse, Rizzini drew admiration for her uncommon poise during the 2012 Mutya ng Pilipinas after the heel of her shoe got stuck in a makeshift stage, causing her to tumble and fall off the stage.
The brave young lady shrugged off the incident, and with the grace of a true beauty queen, got back up and finished her sequence.
“There’s always a first for everything. It happens. I just got to have to get up and keep moving forward,” she told this writer later.