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Davao City, Philippines

SEA games results clearly show where PH must excel

December 09, 2019 - Monday 4:12 AM by Jimmy Laking

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I was certainly more amused than surprised when the name of Efren “Bata” Reyes cropped up as this country’s bet in cushion carom (also called “una banda” in billiards) in the SEA games.

It is a type of game that Reyes, who roamed the world to showcase his magic, would excel at.

So when he crushed Thailand’s Punyawee Thongchai by a lopsided 100-37, I thought the gold was a sure ball.

But in the game that mattered most, Reyes met his master in circuit world champion Dinh Nai Ngo. The Vietnamese showed no respect for the 65-year old magician, dumping him with a 100-14 drubbing. Reyes had to settle for bronze.

In chess, the 68-year Eugenio Torre showed too much savvy in leading Team Philippines to a gold.

In his prime, Torre had defeated then world champion Anatoly Karpov and was a friend to the late Robert “Bobby” Fischer, also a former world champion. Torre remains in fact the country’s highest rated grandmaster, with the exception of Fil-Am Wesley So.

It was not the first time that the Philippines had fielded Reyes, who is old enough to be the granddaddy of his opponents. Nor was it the first time that it fielded other veterans as well in carrying the country’s colors.

The rules do not seem to have age limits so it is no surprise to encounter 40-year-olds in weightlifting competitions. The older they get, the tougher they are to beat.

Yet it would have been an abomination and a mockery had PH fielded the 46-year-old Asi Taulava in the basketball events.

The guy is good enough as far as the Manila leagues are concerned. But he is well past his prime and lacked the immense skills of 42-year-old Vince Carter of the NBA to make a difference.

This early, the SEA Games results that showed the Philippines up front in the medal count gave conclusive evidence on what sports Filipinos should excel at and can dominate.

Combat sports like arnis, wushu, muay thai, and judo are gold mines and are an exact fit for Filipinos. True, basketball has yielded golds for PH in the SEA Games, but it is a different story altogether in the ASIAD where PH had no answer against the likes of China and South Korea.

All told the medal count showed that Filipinos excel more in individual events than in team competitions.

There on the mat or in the ring, the Filipino’s natural skills for combat is fun to watch. They are simply awesome in arnis, wushu, and muay thai and can hold their own in boxing, karate, and judo. In weightlifting, Hydilin Diaz actually stands only 4’ 10.5” or 1.58 meters and weighs only 58 kilograms, but behind this small body is an innate strength tempered by training and discipline. She is in every sense small but terrible.

But in games like basketball that demand team chemistry, unselfishness, and coordination, Filipinos are more hype than content, the glowing terms accorded them by the Manila-based media establishments notwithstanding. For instance, we have none in the Gilas national lineups two-way players who can play multiple roles in the manner that NBA teams would expect from a Kawhi Leonard or a Luka Doncic.

This is not to detract from the Filipino’s ball-handling ability but height generally is still might and it is something that native Filipinos lack.

The Japanese have realized this a long time ago and have since concentrated in games where their discipline and temperament as a people come as a right fit.