Relying on his vast experience and coolness under pressure, six-time world bowling champion Paeng Nepomuceno added another feather to his cap by winning the recent 124th Masters keg championship.
Still playing the form that gave him his first Masters title in 1972, the 55-year-old Nepomuceno topped the 1st ABC-Boysen Open championship at the E-Lanes Bowling Center in Greenhills San Juan.
Paeng beat the much younger and former World Cup contender and Asian Games gold medal winner Biboy Rivera, 2-0, (255-211) and (226-208), highlighted by a perfect 300 game during the 12-game eliminations phase of the Masters tournament.
Paeng emerged the No.2 contender behind Rivera after that, with third-seeded Frederick Ong, singles gold medalist in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, finishing third in the stepladder matches.
Then Paeng earned a shot at Rivera by outdueling Ong, 226-223, in the one-game stepladder.
In the frenetic eliminations, Rivera posted scored a couple of 279s, a 258 and a 247, while Nepomuceno came back with stirring games of 300, 279, 278, 261, 257, 236 and 234.
“It feels to be able to contend with the players much younger than me,” said the southpaw Nepomuceno.
And he ruled out retirement.
“As long as I feel that I’m still competitive, I will go on playing,” said the legendary world champion. He won the much-coveted World Cup four times in three different decades (1976 in Iran, 1980 in Indonesia, 1992 in France and 1996 in Northern Ireland).
Just what is the Bowling World Cup?
The annual World Cup is not a competition where anyone can join from year to year, according to Paeng.
The participant must first win the national eliminations, which start with the player having to win the weekly finals to advance to the center finals and then to qualify for the national finals. This process takes about 100 games and three months to complete before a national champion is declared and earns the right to represent the country in the World Cup international championship.
A field of over 100 million competitive bowlers aspire to participate in the World Cup.
Acknowledged as the most prestigious and most difficult individual tournament in the world, the odds are indeed about 100 million to 1 before one can become a World Cup champion.
Paeng is the only Filipino athlete to have been honored by three Philippine Presidents: Ferdinand E. Marcos, Joseph E. Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In 1999, Paeng was personally awarded by former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch with the IOC President’s Trophy, the highest award for sports and particularly made important by the fact that bowling is not an Olympic sport.
Paeng is the first Filipino bowler enshrined into the International Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri. A life-size photograph of Paeng greets the daily visitors there.
Of his many achievements, Paeng humbly says, “It suffices that I carry the flag and bring honors to the country and the Filipino people. That is my reward.”