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First of two parts:

The 10 biggest sports stories of 2012

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Philippines’ Hidilyn Diaz carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Defeat, more than victory, defined what otherwise had been a momentous year in Philippine sports. Funny, but it continues to haunt us as we close a 365-day chapter in local sports.

We continue to ask ourselves: “How could that happen?” What gives? The nation’s biggest athletic hero, who we adore for keeping the country firmly in the international sporting firmament for a full decade, tasted defeat not once but twice.

For sure, there were other achievements that somehow cushioned the sad, sad year in the ring of boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.

Nine more of 2012’s biggest stories, as culled in a poll among the INQUIRER Sports’ staff, join the Pacquiao copy in the year’s Top 10.

The honorable mentions: The gold-medal victory in the world taekwondo poomsae championships in Colombia of 15-yearold Mikaela Calamba; the rare horse racing double by Hagdang Bato in scoring a Triple Crown sweep and topping the Presidential Gold Cup; Johnny Arcilla’s unprecedented seventh PCA Open singles title; the victory in the POC elections of the ticket of incumbent president Jose Cojuangco Jr.; the second successive Philippine Cup championship nailed by the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in the PBA; and the triumph of Mark Galedo in the gruelling Ronda Pilipinas cycling marathon, in that order.

We present 2012’s Top 10 according to how we see their impact on the nation’s sporting consciousness, in reverse order.

10 Breakthrough for Rain or Shine

Rain or Shine is now a force to reckon with in the PBA.

Yeng Guiao made it even more special when he made his famous prediction with his best player out for good because of a dislocated shoulder.

Rain or Shine became a PBA champion for the first time last August when the Elasto Painters humbled James Yap and the powerhouse B- Meg Llamados in the Governors’ Cup Finals, 4- 3.

And what made it all the more memorable was the fact that Guiao declared the championship was in the bag even after eventual Rookie of the Year Paul Lee was declared unfit to play starting in Game 3 of the title series because of a horrific left shoulder injury.

“We will win this series, with or without Paul Lee,” were Guiao’s first words in the customary winning coach’s interview after his Painters had taken a 2- 0 lead.

Rain or Shine, who had the bull- strong Jamelle Cornley as an import, would go on to lose Game 3 but the Painters won the next, only to be taken to a rubber match by the Llamados.

Still, Guiao did not waver and backed up his prediction by saying: “It has just been delayed. This ( series) is still ours.”

And with that, the Painters bamboozled Yap and the rest of the Llamados, 83- 76.

It was the first title in six years for the Asian Coatings franchise of Terry Que and Raymund Yu, and what it did was unveil stars in Lee, Jeff Chan and Beau Belga while establishing the Painters as a legitimate force in the pro loop. Musong R. Castillo

9 Miñoza still a fairway gem

Miñoza: P8.2M richer

So who is the best Filipino professional golfer ever?

Frankie Miñoza left no doubt as to who owns that tag when he won the Japan Senior Open golf championship in late October, adding to his list of accolades befitting the most loved, most successful Pinoy pro of all time.

Even with the emergence of PH stars in the international scene like Juvic Pagunsan, Angelo Que and lately, Antonio Lascuña, Miñoza’s achievements—and this latest caper—still has him way ahead of the pack for the distinction.

With a closing one-under-par 71 at the Higashinagoya Country Club’s West Course in Aichi Japan, Miñoza tallied a four-under 284 and turned back three local bets for the ¥16.4 million (around P8.2 million) champion’s prize.

Miñoza, who rose to as high as 50th in the world in 1988, has spent most of his illustrious career in Japan, where he had seven prior wins in the regular tour.

The 53-year-old Bukidnon native also made it to the prestigious US Champions’ Tour in 2011.

Miñoza also has two Philippine Open victories and his last triumph on local soil came in December last year when he rallied from seven strokes down in the final round to rule the ICTSI Wack Wack Championship at the East course. Musong R. Castillo

8 No muffling the roaring SBC Red Lions

Magsanoc and the Lions celebrate.

San Beda  came out on top again even in a season of challenges.

Finals MVP Baser Amer, Jake Pascual and Anjo Caram shone as the Red Lions bagged a third straight NCAA men’s basketball championship in a year where they had to deal with controversies and suspensions, a new coach and powerhouse opponents.

The Red Lions surprisingly routed the Letran Knights, 67-39, in the deciding Game 3 to cop their sixth crown in the last seven seasons and become the most decorated basketball team in the league with a record 17 titles.

It was an unexpected ending as the Lions narrowly took Game 1, 62-60, before the Knights leveled the best-ofthree series with a 64-55 triumph.

Rookie mentor Ronnie Magsanoc took over as San Beda coach following the resignation of Frankie Lim in the wake of the controversial offseason brawl that led to the suspension of virtually the entire Lions’ squad on their first game.

But San Beda showed early on that it can conquer adversities as the Lions pulled off an improbable win even with only six players at the start of the season. Jasmine W. Payo

7 Another Olympic medal drought

The mission was supposedly easier. Never mind the gold medal. The Philippines needed to fly to London with the aim of ending a medal drought in the Olympics.

That task fell on the shoulders of 11 athletes.

Archers Rachel Cabral and Mark Javier, swimmers Jessie Khing Lacuna and Jasmine Alkhaldi, shooter Brian Rosario, weightlifter and flag-bearer Hidilyn Diaz, boxer Mark Barriga, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, long jumper Marestella Torres, runner Rene Herrera and cyclist Daniel Caluag gallantly fought to represent the country with pride.

In the end, though, the victories were few. None of the athletes managed to make a serious bid for a medal.

That meant that under Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, the country stretched to four the number of Olympics in which it failed to win a single medal. Months later, Cojuangco earned another four-year term as POC president. Francis T.J. Ochoa

6 Azkals sustain promising drive

James Younghusband takes on Singapore’s Aleksandar Duric and Mohamad Shaiful Esah Nain.

Since their rise to prominence in late 2010, the Philippine Azkals have looked poised to ending the country’s wait for a title. It came in September when the Azkals ruled the Philippine Football Peace Cup, but the victory remained a footnote in a year that was remembered more for the team’s performances in two major tournaments—the AFC Challenge Cup and AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals actually surpassed expectations in the Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal, last March with a historic third place finish and delivered another semifinal finish in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in December, proving that their feat two years ago was no fluke.

September saw the end of a 99-year wait for an international football trophy for the Philippines as the Azkals fashioned out a three-game sweep of the four-nation Peace Cup involving Guam, Macau and ChineseTaipei, at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

It was also in September when the Azkals beat Southeast Asian powerhouse Singapore for the first time, 2-0, in Singapore.

After holding touted Bahrain to a scoreless draw, they repeated over Singapore, 1-0, two months later in the first international friendly that was played in Cebu.

But the Azkals, who climbed to a record high Fifa ranking of 143 just before the Suzuki Cup, couldn’t get the job done when the stakes were higher.

Facing a Singapore side that had them all figured out this time in the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup, the Azkals succumbed to a 0-1 loss on aggregate with the Lions’ lone goal coming in the second leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.

While the loss was painful, Singapore showed it was the region’s top team by beating Thailand in the Suzuki Cup finals. Cedelf P. Tupas


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Tags: 2012 London Olympics , AFF Suzuki Cup , Basketball , Football , Frankie Miñoza , Game , Golf , Hans Michael Weiss , NCAA , PBA , Peping Cojuangco , Philippine , Philippine Azkals , Philippines , POC , Rain or Shine , San Beda Red Lions , Sports , Yeng Guiao



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