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‘World champions’

“Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.”
–Joseph Heller

13006620_10206130189196605_589309284076281549_nBy Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — If he did not quarrel with a fellow spoiled brat, many Filipinos wouldn’t know that Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri is a “former world champion in arnis.”
Incensed that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV accused him and Senator Dick Gordon of “trying to whitewash the investigation of corruption in the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID)”, Zubiri “accepted” Trillanes’ challenge for a “war” boasting that “I did not become a world champion in arnis for nothing…”
True or not, who are we to doubt Zubiri’s claim that he is a former world champion in arnis? (Although I personally haven’t read any press release or news item that extolled the Bukidnon lawmaker’s exploits in the combat sport otherwise known as “Eskrima” and “Kali”.)
Aside from Zubiri, they also have Senator Manny Pacquiao as world boxing champion.

ABUNDANCE

The Philippine senate actually has abundance if not packed with “world champions.”
In fact, the upper house, as an institution, has also been reputed as a “world champion” — in producing plunderers, clowns and mediocre legislators.
If amassing unexplained wealth via “pork barrel” is a world championship, who can beat our Janet Napoles-inspired Filipino legislators?
They could even wrap up the “team championship” or dominate the medal tally.
And if there is a “world championship” in their respective talents, styles, and categories, Senators Leila De Lima, Vicente “Tito” Sotto, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Frank Drilon, Gringo Honasan II, Alan Peter Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay; and Trillanes IV might win handily and be considered also as “world champions.”
De Lima in love affair; Sotto in plagiarism; Honasan in coup d’tat; Drilon in balimbing game; Lacson in Houdini-like escape; Cayetano in sip-sip game; Recto in playing safe attitude; Binay in underdog effect, Trillanes in quarreling, to mention only a few.

 
 

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Like Hillary, Kovalev wins but loses in the judges’ ‘electoral college’

“As much as I love boxing, I hate it. And as much as I hate it, I love it.” –– Budd Schulberg

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Bad news for Vladimir Putin. Good news for his “favorite”, President-elect Donald J. Trump.
We have boxing’s version of the puzzling “electoral college”, the decrepit system that denied Hillary Clinton the presidency despite besting Trump in the popular votes in the recent election.
We respect the judges’ verdict, an identical 114-113 unanimous decision in favor of American Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), but the night belonged to dethroned Russian world champion Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) in the battle for WBA, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight belts on Saturday night (November 19) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
With 84 percent KO in his ledger, the 33-year-old warrior, born in Kopeysk, Russia, should have prevented a “hometown” decision by finishing off the 32-year-old challenger from Oakland in the early rounds.

RESCUE

But orthodox Kovalev allowed Ward to be rescued by the judges when he failed to put him away for good after scoring a second round knockdown which was worth 55 electoral college votes in the presidential race.
But unlike Clinton who gamely accepted her upset defeat, the Russian KO artist could only complain: “It’s the wrong decision. I don’t want to say my opinion. The witnesses are here – they saw it. It’s my job. It was a fight of my life. I am disappointed in the judges’ decision. He got maybe a few rounds, I agree with that. I kept control. I lost maybe three rounds the whole fight.”
He added: “Of course, I want a rematch and I will kick his ass. I want to show good boxing. I am against here it is the USA and all the judges were from the USA. He is a boxer. It’s a sport, don’t make it politics. It’s a sport and I won the fight!”

‘NOT SURPRISED’

Ward, who earned my admiration when he blasted to smithereens the incredible Chad Dawson for the WBC and WBC super-middleweight crowns in 2012, believed he won the bout: “No, I was not surprised when I heard the decision, I don’t’ know where you got that from. I know it was a close fight – the crowd you can hear they thought I won…I have been a champ before I knew it was going to be a tough fight – it was the first time in my career I was dropped.”
Ward added: “He did everything I expected him to do. He started to show up as I expected he started to fight like I expected. My coach did a great job…It’s hard for me to call myself great. At the end of the day I am a two-weight division champion. Of course, I would do a rematch. I am not going to negotiate a fight right now I will go home and relax and see what’s next.”

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in BOXING, SPORTS

 

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I’m not dead, says Pinoy chess champ

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  — MARK TWAIN

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — The oldest Filipino to win a category title in the World Chess Open championship has surfaced after a long hiatus to belie reports he was dead.
“I came here to prove them wrong,” Normando “Andy” Bragat Punzalan, 72, told this writer in an exclusive interview at the Elmhurst Park in Queens, August 15, referring to reports.

“In fact, I’m looking for the person or group of persons in this park who spread the rumor that I have died,” fumed Punzalan, who holds a United States Chess Federation (USCF) National Elo 1769.

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SELFIE with a background showing Punzalan playing versus Indonesia Master Thomas.

Rumors of Punzalan’s death spread in Elmhurst Park July 2016, where he used to hone chess skills together with other fellow Filipino-American chess players.
He claimed credit in bringing super GM Wesley So in the park to play with local chess aficionados in exhibition matches.

RATED

Rated No. 2120 in the United States, Punzalan, who has lived here for more than 30 years since moving from Novaliches, Quezon City, blamed “envy” as the source of the false story.
Fellow Fil-Am chess player Melchor “Choy” Florescio alerted Punzalan about the rumors in a telephone call, but persuaded him from identifying the rumor mongers.
Chess aficionados in the park feared swindlers might once again use the opportunity to solicit donations for a “dead” compatriot.
“Ever since I won in Philadelphia (venue of the 7th Annual World Open Under1800), I have been hearing ugly rumors about me. Some people just can’t accept that I could win a chess title in my senior years,” narrated Punzalan, who was 70 when he ruled the category championship.
Punzalan claimed he also topped the tournament in the senior category in 2015.

VICTORY

When his victory became known in the community, Punzalan said envious characters also circulated a story that he was a TNT (Tago Ng Tago or illegal immigrant) in a bid to destroy him in the chess federation.
He chided those who cast doubts on his credentials to check the internet saying he did not want to argue with them.
“I had to show my ID to prove that I am an American citizen,” sobbed Punzalan, who recently engaged an Indonesian known in the park as “Master Thomas” in a series of blitz games.
In an incident during a winter season years back, detractors ribbed Punzalan after a drunken elderly Fil-Am he accompanied home fell to the ground and suffered cuts on his head.
“My detractors claimed I intentionally pushed the elderly person. I was the one who offered to bring the person home, yet I ended up as the contrabida. My critics never stopped maligning me only because I won a chess title,” he exclaimed.

CHESSERS

Punzalan said several Filipino chessers also won in various categories in the past, “but none of them won the title at age 70.”
“I’m not bragging about my achievements (in chess), but I will prove to my critics that I can still play even if I am now 72,” Punzalan said. “I am still active and not yet retiring.”
He plans to participate in the Millionaire Chess Open in Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 6-10, 2016.
Punzalan also reportedly had exposure in the following tournaments: 41st Annual World Open (Ratedgames) Arlington, USA 2013.06.29; 41st Annual World Open (Under1800) Arlington, USA 2013.06.29; 6th NY International (Under1800) New York, USA 2013.06.19; 7th Annual Philadelphia Open (Under1800) Philadelphia, USA 2013.03.27; National Chess Congress (Under1800) Philadelphia, USA 2012.11.23; Boardwalk Open (Under 1800) Asbury Park, USA 2012.10.19; Continental Class (Class B) Arlington, USA 2012.10.04; 40th Annual World Open (Under1800) Philadelphia, USA 2012.07.01; Philadelphia Open (Under1600) Philadelphia, USA 2012.04.04; Eastern Team Championship! (Teamu) Stamford, USA 2011.11.04; 39th Annual World Open (Under1600) Philadelphia, USA 2011.06.28; 38th Annual World Open (Under1600).

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in SPORTS

 

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She is human, after all

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” Marilyn vos Savant

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — We can’t stay on top forever.
Even powerful historical figures have collapsed violently after lording over their domains with absolute authority and almost sphinx-like mythological dominance.
Judas. Ben-Hur. Atahualpa. Hector. Achilles. Philip of Macedon. Caesar. Cleopatra. Nero. Magellan. King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette.
The Romanovs. Rasputin. Mussolini. Hitler. Amin. Suharto. Marcos. Noriega. Ceaușescu. Saddam. Bin Laden. Gaddafi. To name only a few.
In many combats and competitions, there are always upsets and shockers.
Some neck and neck races end up as nail-biting and photo-finish clinchers.
This coming elections, many political dynasties could fold up in shame, shattering their myths of invincibility now that we have an automated poll.
Some political lords could suffer humiliating defeats as their decrepit guns, goons and golds will have no match against the netizens, the emerging intelligent force to reckon with in the age of social media and dizzying technology.

-o0o-

NOTHING is permanent in this world except change, pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once declared.
Even champions go down in style.
The brutal fall of Ronda Rousey after being knocked out cold by Holly Holm in a dramatic upset Saturday (Nov. 14) night in the main event of UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, should serve as inspiration to all underdogs.
Who doesn’t know Ronda Jean “Rowdy” Rousey?
Only 28 and standing five feet and seven inches, the American mixed martial artists, judoka, and actress from Riverside, California was known as the Mike Tyson of Ultimate Fighting Championship of UFC.
She was unbeaten in 12 fights (nine submissions and three KOs) as bantamweight champion before fellow American Holm, 34, starched her out in probably the biggest upset in UFC history.

FEARED

Holm’s disposal win against the most feared woman in the planet made newspaper headlines in sports even if media were swamped with the Paris terror attack over the weekend.
For many UFC fans, Rousey’s defeat was unexpected and a hail-Mary shocker in combat sport.
Those who followed her career were suspecting that Rousey could be a superhuman, or someone possessed with an extra-ordinary talent not bequeathed on just anyone in fight business because of the way she dispatched opponents in the quadrangle.
Last Saturday Down Under, Rousey proved to us that she was human, after all–far from the way Sylvestre “Rocky Balboa” Stallone and Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger immortalized the good-looking lady.
The most destructive 130-pounder of the distaff side could get a rematch, we are 99 percent sure about that, but her reputation as “the arm collector” (because of the way she strangles opponents and wrecks their arms) and the “baddest woman on the planet” (because of her intimidating eyes) has suffered a dent.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in ELECTION, SPORTS

 

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‘Olympic diving champ Vicki Manalo was my wife’

“Sport allows us to engage in dialogue and to build bridges, and it may even have the capacity to reshape international relations. The Olympic Games embody perfectly this universal mission.” Richard Attias

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — When I met former US Olympic coach Lyle Draves in California in 2011, I didn’t know he was the husband of the first woman in history to win the Platform and Springboard gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics.
To my big surprise, Victoria “Vicki” Manalo-Draves, who died in 2010 at the age of 85, was half-Filipina and half-British.
If she represented the Philippines, we could have won our first gold medal after the World War II.
The highest that we have achieved, so far, were two silver medals courtesy of boxers Anthony Villanueva (1964 Tokyo Olympics) and Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, Jr. (1996 Atlanta Olympics) and six bronze medals.
When Vicki was invited by President Elpidio Quirino in Malacañang in July 1949, she was feted like a Filipina Olympic champion, Lyle recalled.
It was the then 96-year-old Lyle himself who narrated the great exploits of his wife in an exclusive interview inside his unit in a retirement village in the City of Laguna Woods.
“My late wife was half-Filipina,” Lyle volunteered.

RED CARPET

He accompanied Vicki in the Malacañang visit and they were given a red carpet welcome.
“We hardly had any sleep then,” mused Lyle, the first pure diving coach in history who produced three Olympic gold medalists: Vicki Manalo-Draves (1948 London Olympics), Pat McCormick (1952 Helsinki Olympics and 1956 Melbourne Olympics), and Sue Gossick (1968 Mexico Olympics).
“We were herded from one party to another like real celebrities and almost everybody recognized us, especially Vicki. Man, I can’t forget that moment.”
Husband and wife visited the Philippines a year after Vicki Manalo-Draves made history: she became the first woman in history to win the Platform and Springboard gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics.
“I was her coach and Vicki narrowly beat (fellow American) Zoe Ann Olsen for the gold in her last Springboard dive,” recalled Lyle, who was permanently enshrined in the International Swimming Hall of Fame at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 12, 1989. “I replaced the regular coach, Fred Cady, who got sick and could not make it to the Olympics that year.”
Lyle said Vicki had been elected in the same highest sports pedestal in 1969.

PARK

On October 27, 2006, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom signed a proclamation naming a two-acre park as Victoria Manalo Draves Park in her honor on Folsom and Sherman streets in San Francisco where she was born.
Vicki’s father was a Filipino musician from Orani, Bataan who migrated to San Francisco, California. Her mother was British Gertrude Taylor, also a migrant in the same state.
Lyle and Vicki have four sons – David, Jeffrey, Dale and Kim – all divers. They have eight grandchildren.
Prior to competing in the 1948 Olympics, Draves won five United States diving championships.
Draves turned professional after the Olympics, joining Larry Crosby’s “Rhapsody in Swimtime” aquatic show at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1948.

CANCER

When Vicki died on April 11, 2010 from complications of pancreatic cancer at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California, Lyle relocated to a plush retirement village at the Rushmore Towers in Laguna Woods, California where he has been living alone.
“I missed Vicki so much. But every night I talked to her,” sighed Lyle, who was partly deaf.
Lyle coached female divers to 12 Olympic medals and 35 National Championships. His Olympic silver medalists include Paula Jean Myers and Zoe Ann Olsen, each of whom took a bronze. His divers’ Olympic medal count reads 7 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.
Lyle has been described as America’s first great diving coach beginning an era when diving coaches could specialize in divers and not coach swimmers too, or vice versa.
He was a Hollywood film editor and his showbiz background has helped his coaching or again, vice versa, since Lyle was diving in and then producing, top-rated diving water shows before he became a film editor.
An Iowa farm boy, Lyle met Fred Cady at a swimming meet in Iowa. Fred invited him to California where Lyle began coaching divers at the Lido Club at the famed Ambassador Hotel and at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

PUPIL

One of his first pupils was a 12-year-old girl named Zoe Ann Olsen. Next, they both moved to the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland where he met Vicki Manalo. He later married Vicki, who was given away by 1948 and 1952 platform winner Sammy Lee.
After the Olympics, Vicki and Lyle toured the United States and Europe with Buster Crabbe and Dick Smith.
He described the tours as “our great opportunity to travel as husband and wife since we have been traveling a lot together as coach and diver.”
Lyle returned to his coaching, first at tennis champion Jack Kramer’s Athletic Club and then at UCLA.
The Draves boys are Acapulco and World Champion high divers who have followed the showbiz side of their father’s heritage doing high and trick dives in such places as Magic Mountain, Sea World and Marineland.
Lyle described Fred Cady as “the most brilliant man” he ever met.
“He was the team coach during the 1936 (Berlin) Olympics and he was truly a great diving coach,” Lyle said.
The secret to success in coaching diving, Lyle emphasized, is “to follow Sir Isaac Newton and his third law of motion.”
He said, “Divers should know how to utilize the muscles inside their bodies by following the third law of motion.”

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in SPORTS

 

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I saw Pheidippides

“A runner must run with dreams in his heart.”Emil Zatopek

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — I was on my way to quit when I saw Pheidippides.
Sunday at past 9’clock in the morning on November 1, I made a terrible faux pas: from the Grand Central Station, I took an upper east side-bound train and alighted on Manhattan’s 51st Street.
I was supposed to get off on the 59th Street and walk on the left to the Fifth Avenue.
The mistake brought me to the 86th Street walking like a house on fire. That’s where I realized I goofed.
I retreated on the 77th Street and turned left. I reached Central Park’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I walked but stopped before reaching the Central Park North (110 Street).
Eureka, the area was a route of the 45th New York City Marathon, the reason why I was there.
I was supposed to proceed to the finish line at Central Park West thinking I was already late because of the long walk.

FOLLOW

I followed the route and stopped on the race’s 24th mile hoping to salvage a glimpse of the runners on the wayside in case the awarding ceremony was unfolding.
A severe headache suddenly hit me brought by the park’s chilly atmosphere and adrenaline rush. I rested under the park’s colorful trees to savor the falling autumn leaves and took some “selfie” shots.
I was on the verge of abandoning the coverage of the NYC Marathon and was heading to the park’s nearest exit when, all of a sudden, I saw three motorcycle-riding cops followed by two cars with sirens rolling up the hilly part of the route.
It was the lead pack for the distaff side. Kenya’s Mary Keitany, 33, was heading to the finish line unchallenged.
She breasted the tape at 2:24:25.
Realizing I was in the right place at the right time and the race wasn’t yet over as I feared earlier, I positioned myself near the 25th mile waiting for an ambush for the men’s lead pack (away from the main streets, the area was perfect for media coverage).

LUCK

Lady luck smiled at me once more. I heard incoming sirens; this time, Kenya’s world cross-country champion Geoffrey Kamworor was chasing compatriot Stanley Biwott, 29, in a nail-biting finale.
Biwott foiled Kamworor’s last-ditch effort at 2:10:34.
I became emotional watching Biwott as he increased his speed and maked Kamworor eat the dust. It evoked memories of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce Greece’s victory in a battle against Persia in 490 B.C.
In history, we used to discuss marathon, the most dramatic event in the Olympics (because it is traditionally held in the penultimate day of the Olympic Games) and how it became a sports event in honor of the Greek soldier.
The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, and the Persian force retreated to Asia.

BATTLE

The Battle of Marathon was a watershed in the Greco-Persian wars, showing the Greeks that the Persians could be beaten; the eventual Greek triumph in these wars can be seen to begin at Marathon.
Meanwhile, interesting scenes stole the 2015 NYC limelight. Along the race route, through neighborhoods of brownstones, tenements and high-rises, revelers held signs, rang bells and called out to the runners with words of encouragement.
Live music also blared and some in the crowd, composed mostly of family members, still donned Halloween costumes.
Temperatures in the 50s and little wind provided almost ideal conditions for the race’s 50,000 runners–a mix of amateurs, professionals, locals and visitors from across the country and around the world who dream of running the iconic race.

DISTANCE

It is commonly said that the full marathon distance was set to 26 miles 385 yards because of the Royal family, added the Ahotu Marathons.
During the preparation of the summer Olympiads, it had been agreed that the organizers would include a marathon of about 40 km or 25 miles.
The British officials, desirous to accommodate the King of England, started the race at Windsor Castle and finished at the Royal box in the Olympic Stadium–a distance of precisely 26 miles 385 yards.
But that only explains why the London marathon’s distance was 42. 195 km. It doesn’t tell us why this distance was chosen as the definitive marathon distance.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in SPORTS

 

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Let’s stop bellyaching; we don’t need Rio

“You don’t play against opponents, you play against the game of basketball.” Bobby Knight

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — So what’s the big deal if we wound up second to China in the recently-concluded 2015 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship in Changsha City, China on Sept. 23-Oct. 3?
Instead of bellyaching, we must, in fact, jump in jubilation that we reached that far.
Didn’t we know that Gilas Pilipinas’ silver medal tasted like gold?
In the first place, to land in the championship round against mighty China was already a king-sized accomplishment, given the tough field that Gilas was in, let alone campaigning in a hostile territory.
Against the host country, our chances to bag the title were nil.
It would have been a different story if the game was held in Tehran or Nagasaki. Or in Manila.
But our cagers were “fighting for their life” in the capital of Hunan province, a large city with a history dating to the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 B.C.).

HOME COURT

If we can’t lick China somewhere else, we can’t beat them right in their own home court, where the crowd, aside from being rowdy, was violent (they threw empty bottles on the Gilas bench) and definitely wouldn’t go home yielding the FIBA throne on a silver platter to any foreign customer.
That the officiating was bum and horrific wasn’t news at all.
If they wouldn’t cheat, they would be on a hell ride if the Gilas threatened to pull the rug from under them after Gilas’ surprising 5-0 juggernaut in the first quarter.
We don’t need a trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Give the ride to the Chinese.
The silver medal finish was a blessing in disguise. In Rio, we will only be eaten alive, humiliated and exposed as Lilliputians.
Our present line-up has no match against Argentina, Brazil, USA, Uruguay, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Spain, among other global giants.

BATTLE

Let China do the battle for the Asians in Rio.
They are more equipped, financially-prepared, more exposed and with many crack reserves, more battle-scarred, and ready to lock horns with the who’s who in the world of sports politics as an economic behemoth.
We have limited influence and power. We can’t even send a competent representative to lobby for the Fiba hosting. Instead of sending a seasoned negotiator, we sent Manny Pacquiao, who ended up in a photo-op with Yao Ming.
Let’s call spade a spade. Our 12-man roster that walloped Japan twice in as many confrontations: 6-2 Calvin Abueva, 27, 6-11 Andray Blatche, 29, 6-6 Ranidel de Ocampo, 33, 6-5 Matt Ganuelas, 25, 6-2 Dondon Hontiveros, 38, 6-4 J. C. Intal, 31, 6-6 Gabe Norwood, 30, 6-6 Marc Pingris, 33, 5-10 Terrence Romeo, 23, 6-9 Asi Taulava, 42, 6-7 Sonny Thoss, 33 and 5-11 Jayson Castro, 29, will reign supreme in Southeast Asia or Asian Games, for that matter, but not in the World Olympics.
Magpakatotoo tayo, please.

OLYMPICS

Pardon me, but I still maintain that the RP Team that finished 5th in the 1936 Berlin Olympics was still the best, a lot better than Gilas Pilipinas.
And they were all natural-born Filipinos. No naturalized. No imports. We were better than China (tie with Germany at 15th), Italy (7th), Brazil (9th), and France (19th), all powerful teams in this generation.
And who can forget the greatest RP Team-ever assembled that finished third behind the USA and Brazil in the 1954 World Basketball Championship of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) in Rio de Janeiro composed of Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga, and Lauro “The Fox” Mumar, Pons Saldaña, Florentino Bautista, Mariano Tolentino, Antonio Genato, Francisco Rabat, Rafael Barredo, Bayani Amador, Ramon Manulat, Nap Flores, and Ben Francisco?

NOTE: A basketball tournament had been contested during the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, but it is usually considered a demonstration, and not a true Olympic event. Thus, the first Olympic Basketball championship took place in 1936. As the inventor of the game, the United States was considered the favorite, although there had been almost no international competitions prior to 1936. In 1935, the first European Championship had been contested, with Latvia winning, Spain second, and Czechoslovakia third. Latvia competed at the 1936 Olympics but did not even survive the second round. There had been South American Championships since 1930, twice won by Uruguay and once by Argentina, prior to the 1936 Olympics.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2015 in basketball, SPORTS

 

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