WE’RE just half a year old but privileged enough to have covered and tackled some of the biggest names and events in local sports that made 2012 truly a memorable one.
As we say goodbye to the past year and welcome 2013 with a bright outlook, we decided to list down in our own little way – and in no particular order - some of the top newsmakers that provided color and spice to the year just past.
Without them, the wonderful world of sports wouldn't have been as wonderful.
MANNY PACQUIAO - The boxing superstar from General Santos City made bigger news in defeat. The year marked the first time the 'Pacman' lost back-to-back in his career - first to Timothy Bradley in a controversial split decision, and then to Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez in a dramatic, all-action fourth encounter. The sight of Pacquiao going down faced-first and lying unconscious on the canvas for about a minute – after walking into a perfect counter right by Marquez - was unimaginable for a fighter considered among the best of all time.
NONITO DONAIRE JR – You can’t leave this guy out from this list, not with the way he terrorized the boxing world in 2012 when he went a perfect four-of-four. He scored knockdowns against quality opponents, including victories by stoppage against Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce. The win over the legendary Mexican warrior Arce was the most impressive and helped lift the morale of the Filipino people a week after Pacquiao’s unexpected downfall. A lock for Fighter of the Year honor, the 30-year-old Filipino is bound to get even better.
SMART GILAS-PILIPINAS 2.0 – A campaign that was supposed to be just a feel-each-other-out experience for this newest batch of Smart Gilas turned into a huge victory celebration as the team captured the 34th William Jones Cup basketball championship by beating a US selection in the title game. LA Tenorio starred in the thrilling 76-75 win that gave the country its first Jones Cup title in 14 years and made Chot Reyes the first Filipino coach to steer the national team to the crown. But Gilas failed to replicate the same success in the Fiba-Asia Cup, where it only finished fourth.
PHILIPPINE AZKALS - The team further rose to international relevance in 2012. Only two years removed from sparking a renewed interest in football in the country, the Azkals continued to make history after notching a historic third-place finish in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, before winning the country's first football title in almost a century during the Philippine Football Peace Cup. They capped the year by making a second straight semifinal appearance in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
PHILIPPINE VOLCANOES - The Philippine rugby team earned a place in the Rugby World Cup Sevens after finishing third in the HSBC Asian Sevens Series. They beat South Korea, 22-19, in the battle for third to book a spot in the World Cup and cap off a stint that also saw them win the Asian Five Nations tournament at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
MANNY V. PANGILINAN – Owing to disagreements with Ateneo over stands on certain social issues, the popular sportsman-businessman withdrew his financial support to the school’s sports program, including basketball. But before the year ended, the chairman of PLDT and Smart smoked the peace pipe with Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres and all’s well again in the Eagles’ nest in Katipunan. Initially, he also thought of running for the Philippine Olympic Committee presidency, but backed out at the last minute.
ATENEO BLUE EAGLES – the team stamped its class on the UAAP by winning a fifth straight men’s basketball title with a two-game sweep of the University of Santo Tomas Tigers. In doing so, they became the first squad to romp off with a string of five championships since University of the East captured seven straight from 1966-72 - a feat that served as a fitting farewell for coach Norman Black and players Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, and Justine Chua.
PIDO JARENCIO – His Santo Tomas team lost to Ateneo in the UAAP men’s basketball Finals, but the Tigers coach found himself in the hot seat during the course of the series when he blasted the officiating following the team’s Game One loss. His scorching remark, “kailangan pa bang mag-English ako para paboran ako,” was deemed uncalled for and racist by Ateneo counterpart Norman Black. To which Jarencio later retorted, “pakialam ko sa kanya.”
PEPING COJUANGCO JR – despite the controversy and criticisms that marred his reign in the Philippine Olympic Committee, the former Tarlac congressman and one-time presidential brother earned a third straight term unopposed, making him one of the longest-serving presidents of the country’s Olympic governing body.
GO TENG KOK – the unsinkable chief of the country’s athletic association was at it again, portraying himself as a self-styled 'Don Quijote’ of Philippine sports by initially throwing his hat in the POC presidential race. A favorable decision from the High Court overruling the decision of the POC General Assembly declaring him a persona non grata made the controversial sports leader all the more determined to oppose the bid of Peping Cojuangco for a third straight term. To the surprise of everybody, he decided to back out at the last minute and he was never heard from again.
SAN BEDA RED LIONS – Suspension to key players left them with only six brave men to suit up on opening day of the NCAA’s 88th season. But they passed the test with flying colors and never let up from there. The Letran Knights dragged them to a deciding winner-take-all showdown for the title, and they came out of it victorious, winning a third straight championship and their second three-peat in the last seven years.
LOUIE ALAS – The Letran mentor was under the gun during the NCAA Finals against San Beda after making a 'slit throat’ gesture directed at game officials in disgust over officiating. The act led to a near-physical confrontation with technical chief Romy Guevarra inside the court. The two later wrote public apologies before the NCAA Management Committee.
CALVIN ABUEVA – He failed to lead San Sebastian to an NCAA title in his final playing year, but is now making a lot of heads turn as a pro ever since Alaska made him the No.2 overall pick in the last rookie draft. The 'Beast’ consistently churns out double-double figures as one of the chief players in a rejuvenated Aces side, and is on track for a Best Player of the Conference award, easily sparking comparison this early with Benjie Paras, the only PBA player to win the MVP-Rookie of the Year honors in the same season.
RAIN OR SHINE – Talk about an upset of the year, and the franchise's stunning win over heavy favorite B-Meg to bag its first ever PBA championship fits the bill. Coach Yeng Guiao and the Elasto Painters beat the Llamados in the decisive Game Seven of the Governors Cup without injured rookie star Paul Lee.
TALK `N TEXT – The Tropang Texters of coach Chot Reyes became the first franchise in the last 27 years to repeat as All-Filipino champions when they made short work of Cinderella team Powerade Tigers in the Philippine Cup Finals, ending the title series in just five games.
B-MEG– The SMC franchise clinched one of the year’s most dramatic championships as the Llamados rallied in Game Seven of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals and beat the Talk `N Text Tropang Texters in overtime. Best Import awardee Denzel Bowles made it all possible, canning two-pressure packed free throws in the final 1.2 seconds of regulation to send the game into extra period, and then taking over from there to complete the come-from-behind win.
MARK CAGUIOA – More than a decade since winning Rookie of the Year, the popular Ginebra gunner finally bagged his first ever PBA MVP award, besting Gary David, James Yap, and Arwind Santos for the coveted individual plum.
ROBERT JAWORSKI SR – It was long in coming, but certainly worth the wait. The San Miguel Group of Companies finally retired the famed No. 7 jersey of basketball’s Living Legend Robert Jaworski Sr. in a fitting ceremony attended by family members, former players, and the current Barangay Ginebra team at the jampacked Araneta Coliseum.
MICK PENNISI – It was the flop seen round the world following the delayed reaction on the part of the Barako Bull veteran seconds after an irritated Petron import Will McDonald threw the ball in his head. The video of the amusing sequence went viral, and even made it to the highlight show of ESPN Sports Center.
DON ALLADO – Bitter about Barako Bull’s loss to Powerade in its knockout game in the Governors Cup, the former De La Salle star ranted about a possible game-fixing through the social networking site Twitter. The act cost him a fine of P500,000, and a one-conference suspension meted out by PBA commissioner Chito Salud.
BRIAN VILORIA – Amidst the noise made by Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr., Brian Viloria quietly did his thing. The end result had him winning twice for the year against Mexicans Omar Nino Romero and Hernan 'Tyson’ Marquez. His sensational 10th-round stoppage of Marquez made him the first unified flyweight champion in the last 50 years.
MARK ANTHONY BARRIGA – For a fleeting moment, the diminutive boxer gave the country a semblance of hope in the 2012 London Olympics when he won his first-round bout against Italian Manuel Kappai. Unfortunately, it stopped there as the Filipino light-fly was bundled out in the second round, losing to his taller opponent Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan.
DRAGON BOAT TEAM – Proof that it’s a rising power in the sport, the Filipino paddlers bagged a total of six gold and a silver medal in the International Canoe Federation Dragon Boat World Championships in Milan, Italy, besting powerhouse teams from Russia, Poland, Germany, and the US to claim the overall title. The victory was a fitting follow-up to the five gold medals a separate Philippine team won in the 2011 International Dragon Boat Federation IDBF 10th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships held in Tampa Bay, Florida.
TEAM MANILA – The bridesmaid finally became a bride as the Golden Girls nailed the elusive Big League Softball World Series title with a 14-2 rout of West of Los Angeles in Kalamazoo, Michigan. That the Filipina clouters achieved the feat despite the lack of funds that marred their campaigns made the win even more remarkable. The team finished runner-up thrice in the same tournament in 2008, 2010, and 2011.
PH POOMSAE TEAM – The Filipino jins did the country proud again after capturing a gold in the 7th World Taekwondo Federation World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Tunja, Colombia courtesy of Mikaela Calamba. They also added a silver and three bronzes. The men and women’s team also won the gold in the 2010 and 2009 editions of the tournament, respectively.
RAJKO TOROMAN – Just when Filipino basketball fans thought they had seen the last of the Serbian coach following his stint with Smart Gilas, he suddenly resurfaced at the start of 2012 as team consultant of the San Miguel Group of Companies. He later sat on the Petron Blaze bench trying to guide young new coach Olsen Racela, but dropped out of the scene the moment losses kept piling up for the Boosters.
JUVIC PAGUNSAN – The former caddie from Bacolod City made the cut in his first ever stint in the British Open, a privilege he earned after finishing as the No. 1 player on the Asian Tour in 2011. Later in the year, he lost his shot at the US$1 million prize money in the Barclays Singapore Open championship after he was beaten by Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain in the second hole of their sudden-death playoff in Asia's richest national championship. Nonetheless, the runner-up purse of US$666,660 he won was the largest ever by a Filipino golfer.
RR GARCIA– His last-second shot that won the game for Far Eastern University over National University in the eliminations of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament sparked a controversy after NU executives put the outcome of the match under protest, insisting the video clip – which game officials used to count the basket - of the controversial play was inconclusive. Commissioner Ato Badolato upheld the decision and denied NU’s protest, but was later overturned by the UAAP Board.
FIBA-ASIA MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP BIDDING - Despite coming in full force in Tokyo for the Fiba-Asia executive board meeting, officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas failed to land the hosting rights of the tournament that serves as the qualifier for the 2014 FIBA-Asia World Championship in Spain. Lebanon won the rights to stage the meet set August of 2013.