Playing the ‘Sport of Kings’ with a prince
Mikee Romero said he’s just a beginner in the sport of polo, but when I saw him play in the Harbour Centre-Air Asia Polo Cup last Sunday, I doubted what he said.
Mikee scored three of the Reds’ nine goals as they won over the Blues 9-7. And although it was rather difficult to clearly see the riders on the playing field, the play-by-play announcer made sure that we knew exactly what was going on.
The beginner turned out to be the hero of the game.
Mikee swore he only started playing the game last year and got his training in the United States.
“I played in several international matches and really prepared for last Sunday’s game,” he said. “As you know, training is a very important factor in a competition. I realized that I overtrained when my forearm swelled and I had to undergo acupuncture treatments to relieve the severe pain. I played well because I really trained hard.”
Compared to basketball, Mikee said polo is a very fast sport.
“But like basketball, it is very, very physical,” he said. “I got more injuries training in polo than when I was playing college basketball. In both sports, the adrenalin rush is always high.”
The crowd at the Manila Polo Club was different from any of the sports events that I have covered and attended. The affair was definitely high-end, with almost all the ladies wearing expensive French perfumes and dressed to the nines. Some of them wore wide-brimmed hats because of the sun, just like the Kentucky Derby ladies.
The Zobels, the Ayalas and the Elizaldes are all part of the polo scene. Food was served all-afternoon long and wine and champagne flowed endlessly.
Polo is the sport of kings, and I told Mikee that I expected him to be playing with the royalty one of these days like the Sultan of Brunei Prince Hassanal Bolkiah or Prince William of England.
“Oh, I played with Bolkiah three weeks ago when the Brunei team came here,” Mikee said. “They often come here to play polo.”
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It was a win-win situation for Perry Mariano, BMPAP (Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines) president, when Dennis Orcollo and Taiwan’s Chang Jung-lin, two of the world’s top billiards players, clashed in the 2012 Philippine Bigtime Billiards (PBB) Face Off Series at the Pagcor Airport Casino in Parañaque last weekend.
Perry, you see, is the manager of both players, so whatever the result of the competition, Perry ends up a winner.
Last December, Chang sought out the services of Perry, who also owns Bugsy Promotions, stable for several world-class billiards players, both Filipino and foreigner.
“I felt flattered when he approached me because Chang is Taiwan’s No. l cue artist and currently the world No. 2,” explained Perry.
“Chang said he is very impressed with Filipino cue artists who he said are very knowledgeable in the game,” Perry said. “He wanted to join Bugsy so he can compete in more tournaments here and further hone his skills. He told me he had high regard for our programs and the way we manage players.”
The Ko brothers, also of Taiwan, soon followed suit.
The 26-year-old Chang won his first World 8-Ball title in Fujairah for Bugsy Promotions.
Ko Pin-yi, the older of the Ko brothers, is Taiwan’s second-ranked player. His 16-year-old brother Pin-chun is the world’s youngest professional player. Both vied in the World Cup of Pool held in Manila last year.
As everyone knows, Chang won over Orcollo in the PBB Face-Off Series last Saturday.
Perry, though, rues the dwindling state of Philippine billiards. We only have two players left among the top 10 of the world, he said. From No. 1, Orcollo has dropped to No. 6 while Ronnie Alcano is at No. 9.
“The result of this game will make us realize that the Filipinos’ dominance in world billiards is gone,” Perry said. “It is vanishing before our very eyes. Even Putch Puyat, the staunchest supporter of the sport, knows that the glory days of billiards is fast becoming a thing of the past. Both he and I believe that something should be done soon, otherwise we might as well kiss the Asian Games and other international tournaments goodbye.”
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