Mission possible: PH bowling team to show supremacy in SEA Games
MANILA, Philippines – Once upon a time, the Philippines was a bowling powerhouse.
It was back in the 90’s when champion Rafael "Paeng" Nepomuceno lifted the banner of the Philippines on the global stage as he won 4 different World Cup championships and gathered a total of 130 international titles.
In 2003, he was named the Greatest International Bowler of All Time by the prestigious Bowlers Journal International. He also has 3 Guinness world records which are all unbroken up until this day. (Q&A: Paeng Nepomuceno on sports cars, cursing, and what it's like to be world champ)
After Nepomuceno’s prime, there had been some Filipino athletes winning in international competitions but the sport of bowling was never quite the same.
“I was there 10 years ago and it was popular. We had TV coverage on the local tournaments that we have. We were also in ESPN,” said women’s team captain Liza Del Rosario who has been part of the national team for 20 years.
In the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, Philippines took home two bronze medals and ended the tourney in 5th place overall. Despite the underwhelming finish, the players didn’t feel heartbroken.
“My last SEA Games was unexpected. But this year, we really prepared for it,” said men’s skipper Kevin Cu.
The Philippine bowling squad did focus on gearing up for this year’s SEA Games and it began by appointing a new nationals team coach: Paeng Nepomuceno.
Ready to be on top
“We’ve been training all year round. We’ve been focusing on the mental game aside from the actual physical game,” the 60-year-old Nepomuceno said.
According to Del Rosario, the nationals decided to hire their own personal trainer and shared the cost of it for the biennial multi-sporting event.
“We didn’t want to wait for POC to provide so we hired our own. We’re happy with the results. The team is a lot stronger physically and we also improved our mental game,” Del Rosario shared.
Malaysia – who topped the 2015 SEA Games and is hosting this year – is expected to be one of the toughest opponents in the competition. Despite this, Nepomuceno fearlessly said the Philippines has higher chances of winning this August.
“Although it’s (SEA Games) getting more competitive, we’re ready for the competition,” Nepomuceno confirmed.
“Hopefully, we could win a couple. All of them has a potential to win. All 6 men and 6 women.”
For all the bowlers, their mission to clinch medals isn’t just for the pride of the country but to revive the sport of bowling and bring back its colors just like how it was years ago.
“We hope that if we win the SEA Games, we could show the country that bowling is still there. Hopefully, the sport will be popular again.”
Once upon a time, Filipinos were bowling powerhouses – and the Philippine team will do everything they can to add more pages into that storybook when the SEA Games arrives. – Rappler.com