MANILA, Philippines – In the world of sports, there’s always someone somewhere who tries to shatter human limitations to become great. There’s always an athlete in a remote unknown backyard or on a brightly lit court, who exudes resiliency by working hard in a quiet gym or in a loud arena, just to live a dream.
This year has been marked by that kind of resilience on a higher level from various athletes in different sports. We saw athletes face adversity. Misfortunes struck, comebacks were mounted, and history was made in the last 365 days. Look back on the biggest sports stories of 2013—stories of resiliency that have always made sports as inspiring as ever.
10. Palarong Pambansa continues to inspire
The overall message of Palarong Pambansa 2013 was peace and unity. Despite the fierce competition, what the games wanted to forge is camaraderie among the future of Philippine sports.
There was no shortage of inspiring stories, like the story of Jomar Maalam, the amputee swimmer from Zamboanga del Sur, and stories of determination and never giving up like that of Marylyn Avila. Avila, eager to win a medal after failing to do so for the past 3 years, was on her way to winning the 100m hurdles before hitting a hurdle and crashing to the floor. Two days later, Avila came back, determined to gain victory. She came from behind to get gold in the 400m hurdles.
9. Volleyball is on the map
Local volleyball has been at war with time and culture for the last couple of decades. It has long strived for relevance amid a culture drunk on basketball.
In recent years, volleyball has resembled a sleeping volcano, waiting for the opportune time to strike. This year, volleyball erupted and hit milestones to finally put it on the map of sports fans.
For the first time this year, a UAAP volleyball game was held in a venue as huge as the Mall of Asia Arena before a record crowd of more than 19,000. According to ABS-CBN and UAAP Sports TV, that historic double-header game was the second most-watched UAAP event covered by Studio 23. The game date featured a battle between the UST Tigresses and the NU Lady Bulldogs, followed by the clash of the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the DLSU Lady Spikers.
2013 also saw the inauguration of the first-ever commercial volleyball league in the Philippine Super Liga, which officially opened last July. Since then, it has mounted two conferences and has added a men’s division, with the total number of teams rising to 10.
8. Rubilen Amit is champion again
For a time, the top sports in the Philippines were basketball, boxing, and billiards. The last one had taken a backseat the past few years. But Philippine billiards finds a new hero in Rubilen Amit, who bagged the World 10-ball title and then helped Team Asia to win Queens Cup 3 days later.
But Amit was not done just yet.
She continued her onslaught toward the end of the year, adding a SEA Games gold medal to her 2013 achievements by defeating Indonesian Angeline Magdalena, 7-2, in the 10 ball finals.
Her victory gave the Philippines its 26th gold in this year’s SEA Games.
7. Athletes break the norm, come out of the closet
In April, NBA center Jason Collins made history by being the first active player in a major professional American team sport to reveal that he is gay. Collins, who played for the Washington Wizards in the 2012-2013 NBA season, made the revelation in a cover story on Sports Illustrated.
At 35, the 7-footer is currently a free agent.
Another athlete who came out recently is British diving star Tom Daley. On December 2, Daley revealed he was in a relationship with a man but that he still “fancied” girls.
6. Athletes vs Injuries
Several star athletes came back late this year from injuries sustained during last season. Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant finally got a win 3 games into his return from an achilles tear. In his 2nd game back, he showed he still had hops throwing down a right-handed jam against the Suns. Unfortunately, the Black Mamba suffered another injury, this time on his left knee, which will sideline him for about 6 weeks.
Another Western Conference All Star who came back was Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook. The athletic point guard has been norming 21 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists this season.
With successful comebacks also came heartbreaking falls. Derrick Rose, who missed the entire 2012-2013 season due to an ACL tear on his left knee, came back this year only to suffer another season-ending injury, this time on his right knee. In a media appearance after his successful knee surgery, Rose said his “story is far from done.” We can only hope he remains the player he was after suffering two devastating knee injuries.
In the Philippines, Fil-Am cagers Chris Lutz and Jay Washington both bounced back from injuries. Lutz is contributing a great deal to Petron’s perfect Philippine Cup record, while Washington is helping the young GlobalPort squad, surprising everyone and placing 4th in the current standings.
Another local player coming back from injury is Japeth Aguilar, who has since been soaring to greater heights with his stellar play in the ongoing PBA 2014 season. Aguilar is averaging career highs in spoints (19.17), rebounds (9), and blocks (3.5).
5. Archers and Lions reign in 2013 college wars
Both the De La Salle Green Archers and the San Beda Red Lions faced tough odds spanning the entire 2013 seasons of the UAAP and NCAA, respectively.
The Archers, for one, underwent a coaching change a mere 3 weeks before Season 76 tipped off. A direct result of that was a huge struggle in the first round of the eliminations. The FIBA Asia 2-week break arguably benefitted the Archers most for it meant more time for them to gel and adjust to the new system.
Eventually, coach Juno Sauler’s “improve every day” mantra paid off when they swept the second round. They halted the UST Growling Tigers’ spirited run by battling back from a 1-0 Finals series deficit to force a Game 3 that went into overtime. And with a game-changing jumper from Almond Vosotros and a game-sealing freebie from LA Revilla, the Archers were back on top.
Over at the NCAA, the Lions also had to fend off their fair share of adversaries. The Lions nearly lost their twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four, owing to allegations of guard Ryusei Koga playing in a game outside of the NCAA while the league was still ongoing.
But after the NCAA Management Committee opted to “defer” investigations on the incident, San Beda went on to face once again their rival, which also went the distance in the finals, Fate smiled upon the Lions, however, as they clinched their fourth straight title and their 18th overall, the most by any school in the league.
4. The sports world rallies for Yolanda (Haiyan) victims
One of the world’s strongest typhoons hit the Philippines on November 8 killing more than 6,000 people and leaving billions of pesos worth of damage. There was outpouring of support from all over the globe, including the sports world.
Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am head coach of back-to-back NBA champions Miami Heat, appeared in a public service announcement for UNICEF, asking people to help with typhoon relief efforts.
The NBA and the NBA Players Association have donated $250,000 (about P10.5M) to the US Fund for UNICEF in support of UNICEF’s emergency relief efforts.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, prior to a game against the Golden State Warriors on November 22, pledged to donate $1,000 for every point he would score. He ended up scoring a game-high 24 points.
FIFA also helped. The football organization will give a special $1-million grant to help rebuild football facilities damaged by the typhoon.
Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and other sporting figures are also doing their part to help.
3. NBA invades the Philippines
The NBA spoiled the Philippines in 2013. This year started with a huge announcement that an NBA pre-season game was going to be played in the Philippines for the first time. Throughout the year, NBA stars made the long journey to this part of Southeast Asia as part of the build-up for the pre-season match between the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets in October.
Before basketball-crazy fans, the Pacers and Rockets went head-to-head, with stars such as Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons, Paul George, Danny Granger, and Roy Hibbert, giving Filipinos a quality game.
NBA legend Larry Bird and longtime NBA commissioner David Stern visited the Philippines. Stern, who announced his resignation this year, spoke to Philippine media about the country’s love for the game and the possibility of a Filipino playing in the NBA.
Stars such as James Harden, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant made separate visits to the Philippines in the months leading up to the NBA Global Games.
The biggest of these visits turned out to be by LeBron James, who was on his Witness History Tour. The back-to-back Miami Heat champion and 4-time NBA MVP stayed in the country for just one day but left a mark on Filipinos that would last for a long time.
2. Gilas Pilipinas ends South Korean ‘curse,’ returns to FIBA World Cup
Perhaps the biggest basketball story of the year is how Gilas Pilipinas, the country’s national men’s basketball team, overcame some of Asia’s toughest and broke a longstanding “curse” to reach the FIBA World Cup for the first time in 40 years.
The national team had been thwarted by South Korea for so long. They broke the country’s basketball-loving hearts time and again. But this time around, in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship, in our home soil, Gilas finally got over the South Korean hump in a highly emotional and historic 86-79 victory last August.
Backed by the entire country, Gilas took down a giant that long tormented the Philippines. The stakes were also much higher because the win meant the Philippines gets a ticket to Spain next year for the FIBA World Cup. Gilas may have lost to Iran in the finals, landing in second place for the silver medal, but that silver medal continues to shine like gold for the Philippines.
The hosting of the FIBA Asia Championship was also a breakthrough since the country had not hosted the biennial tournament since 1973.
1. Comeback of the year
Retire? Not too fast, says Manny Pacquiao. After a controversial split decision loss to American Timothy Bradley and a shocking 6th round knockout loss to Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao had been rumored to be hanging his gloves.
But the 8-division world champion refused to go out on a low note. On November 24, he stepped on the ring against a younger opponent – Brandon Rios. Rios said he would send Pacquiao to retirement. He was dead wrong.
Carrying the faith of the people who cheered for him through the years, and the hopes of thousands who survived Super Typhoon Haiyan, Pacquiao showcased his experience and superior speed, outboxing Rios. It was such a dominant performance that the World Boxing Council (WBC) ranked Pacquiao the top contender for champion and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. It was a move that reignited talks of the two finally meeting in the ring for the much anticipated but also much hurdled megafight.
Another fighter who came back strong this year was Nonito Donaire. He was coming off a setback against Guillermo Rigondeaux when a rematch was set against Vic Darchinyan.
In his bout versus Darchinyan, The Filipino Flash was being pushed to a corner up until the 9th round, when he took out the Armenian boxer with his deadly signature left hook.
Pacquiao and Donaire embodied resilience. At a time when the Philippines is recovering from various disasters including the deadly typhoon Haiyan, the two fighters showed why it’s important to never say die. – Rappler.com
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