Lifting limit on Gilas-bound PBA players possible, says Marcial

MANILA, Philippines – Barring injuries, June Mar Fajardo and the other members of the Gilas training pool will be at their best in the remaining windows of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers this year because of the PBA games.

And the PBA assured the players will be available to Gilas, with the Commissioner’s Office making the adjustments so that the league and the ball clubs will face only minimal distractions on Gilas’ games.

PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial even hinted at the league board possibly lifting limits in the release of PBA players to the national team.

Under the existing PBA-SBP memorandum of agreement, PBA ball clubs are mandated to release only one veteran and one cadet to Gilas.

“Lifting the limit is possible,” said Marcial as he visited the Gilas pool in practice Monday at the Meralco Gym.

Marcial looks forward to the national team doing good in the second window of the WC qualifiers next month where Gilas will finally test its mettle against world No. 10 Australia.

Everybody is hopeful that Gilas will be in great shape.

“Since the PBA season is ongoing, the Gilas players are all in good condition. That won’t be a problem in our games in the World Cup qualifiers,” said Fajardo as he rejoined Gilas in training Monday.

Nonetheless, Fajardo said they will have a job cut out for them in the next window where they play Australia in Melbourne on February 22 then Japan at the MOA Arena in Pasay City on February 25.

The Boomers were dominant in their first two games against Japan and Chinese Taipei. The Nationals are tied with the Boomers in their group as Gilas also swept the Japanese and the Taiwanese in the first window.

Meanwhile, the SBP hinted at the possibility of holding Gilas’ home game against Australia at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan on July 2.

“By playing in the three venues — the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Mall of Asia Arena and the Philippine Arena, this will serve as a dry run of our hosting of the FIBA World Cup 2023," said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios.

"The three venues were presented as part of the country’s 2023 bid, and we get to showcase not only our facilities but our capabilities to the world."


Peter Sagan: Cool, calm and collected ahead of Tour Down Under



If there were a classification just for sheer attention alone then Peter Sagan would already be streaks ahead of any rider at this year's Santos Tour Down Under.


Such is the clamour for the three-time world champion that race organiser Mike Turtur – who has always looked to attract high-profile names in order to draw the Adelaide crowds – began waxing lyrical over Sagan's participation in the race almost without prompting during the pre-race press conference on Saturday.

In fact, Sagan had to say very little of note in order for the local media to be drawn in, but come Sunday, at the People's Choice Classic, it will be his legs that finally do the talking.

The Bora-Hansgrohe team head into the criterium and the Tour Down Under proper with arguably the best line-up they've had in Australia. Jay McCarthy is a genuine contender for the GC, while Daniel Oss and Peter Kennaugh bolster what was already an impressive squad.

The form of sprinter Sam Bennett is somewhat of an unknown given a recent head cold but the consensus seems to be that Sagan could run riot in terms of GC and stages at this race if only his motivation matched his undoubted talent. Stage 4, with its lumpy parcours and downhill dash to the line, has Sagan's name written all over it, for example.

At the press conference in downtown Adelaide, however, Sagan quickly dispelled any pressure on his own shoulders, pointing to Bora's collective search for results, rather than his own ambitions.

"That's a pleasure to hear that I'm the best lead-out man by Jay but for sure we're here for Jay and for Sam Bennett. We'll see what we can do in the race but for sure we're a stronger team than in previous years," Sagan said.

"Why am I here? Well, I hope that it's good preparation. I can get in some good kilometres and it's good weather here so I can train well over the last ten days. The season is starting."

Part of the Tour Down Under’s love affair with Sagan, as Turtur was keen to play up, is the fact that the rider made his WorldTour debut here in 2010. He made it into a break that contained established stars at the time and although he later crashed in the race Turtur was impressed by his character and desire to put on a show.

"It was my first WorldTour race and I met some famous riders here," Sagan said without naming the likes of Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans.

"That was a nice experience. I also crashed but I survived. It was [a] good time. But it's a nice calm race. We're in the same race hotel, it's nice weather and there's no stress."

Morales picks up where he left off with another cycling victory

On the podium from left to right: Ronald Oranza, Jan Paul Morales and Marcelo Felipe. June Navarro/INQUIRER
There’s no hint that Jan Paul Morales of Standard Insurance would slow down anytime soon.
After capturing his second consecutive Ronda Pilipinas individual plum plus a couple of competitive local races last year, Morales ruled the men’s elite road race of the PRU Ride Philippine National Cycling Championships over the weekend in Subic and Bataan.
Morales beat fellow Standard Insurance rider Ronald Oranza at the line in three hours, 42 minutes and 55 seconds after the punishing uphill route covering 137 kilometers.

Marcelo Felipe of 7Eleven Cliqq Road Bike Philippines placed third in the race where the winner earned an all-expenses paid trip in the PRU Ride in London in July plus P50,000 in cash prize.
Aside from Morales, businessman-sportsman and Standard Insurance chairman Ernesto “Judes” Echauz has also produced a pair of local champions in top-caliber runner Joey delos Reyes in duathlon and long-distance triathlon champion Monica Torres last year.
It was also dominating performance last year for the 31-year-old Morales, who ruled the Ontario California Criterium Race in the United States, while emerging champion in the elite division of the 3rd Road Bike Philippines Sual Cycling Challenge in Pangasinan in May.
“I can never accomplish these victories without the full support of our sponsor and my teammates,” said Morales, who is aiming for a third straight Ronda Pilipinas title this March.
With Morales, Oranza and Rudy Roque at the helm, the Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance cycling team had won the Ronda Pilipinas overall individual and team championships four years in a row.
On the other hand, Torres, a perennial top local finisher in the Ironman 70.3 Philippines, is a long-time triathlete and duathlon star in the Standard Insurance stable, according to Echauz.
“Because of her winnings both locally and internationally in the long distance events that she joins, she has also been regularly recognized by sports media organizations,” said Echauz.
Torres topped the Powerman Asia Duathlon Championships—Malaysia 2017, last March.
Emmanuel Commendador and Torres, both from the Philippines, dominated the top podium spots for the male and female elite category with a time of 02:48:36 and 03:04:11, respectively.
She also won the Tri-Sports 51.5 held in Ilocos Norte, also last March and grabbed the podium in the inaugural MusaMan Trt-DavNor 2017, a standard distance triathlon hosted by the provincial government of Davao de Norte, last June.


UAAP juniors: NU once again tops FEU in finals rematch, ADMU pounds UST to go 8-0

BIG GAME. MVP candidate Rhayyan Amsali (21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) had a big game to lift NU over FEU. File photo from Amsali's Facebook

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MANILA, Philippines - The second round of the UAAP Season 80 Juniors basketball tournament kicked off on Saturday, January 13 with last season’s runner-up National University (NU) Bullpups once again defeating the defending champion Far Eastern University (FEU) Baby Tamaraws in an 86-81 finals rematch thriller.

NU had previously beaten the champs 80-68 in the first round.

The game remained relatively close until the closing moments of the first half, when RJ Abarrientos pulled up for 3 with less than 10 seconds on the game clock to put the champs up 47-40. The now 7-1 Bullpups got it together when it mattered most, scoring 29 points in the final frame compared to FEU’s 16. Thanks to the late heroics of Most Valuable Player candidate Rhayyan Amsali (21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Terrence Fortea (18 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4-of-7 threes), NU sneaked away with the lead and sealed the game for good off a late and-one from Michael Malonzo.

Season 79 Finals MVP L-Jay Gonzales paced the Baby Tams with 21 points, 5 boards and 5 helpers on 9-of-13 shooting and 2-of-2 from downtown. Bryan Sajonia also did damage in just 15 minutes (15 points, 4-of-5 threes) but the team ultimately failed to clamp down on their late lead.

Following that thriller was another marquee matchup between the undefeated Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eaglets and 3rd-placer University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tiger Cubs. While the Cubs pounced out to an early 18-13 lead after the first quarter, they were slowly overpowered by the ultra-talented Ateneo squad which boasts 3 of the Top 5 MVP candidates, including 7-foot-1 Gilas 2023 prospect Kai Sotto. Ateneo ultimately won by 24, 78-54, to improve to 8-0 for Season 80. UST fell to 5-3, still at 3rd.

Sotto finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks off the bench while Dave Ildefonso added a game-high 20 points, 7 boards and 3 assists. SJ Belangel rounded up the MVP-level contributions with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 helpers of his own.

Frontrunner MVP candidate CJ Cansino – who expressed his desire to be a part of the 2023 Gilas roster after the loss – chipped in 16 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists but struggled from the field on 6-of-20 shooting. Only Cansino and Vince Dolendo (10 points) scored in double-figures for UST as the Eaglets held the Cubs to 27% shooting as a team.

Coming up third in the 4-game slate was a battle between the De La Salle University-Zobel (DLSZ) Junior Archers and the University of the East (UE) Junior Warriors. DLSZ handily won 93-74 thanks to double 20-point performances from Chris Calimag (22 points, 5 rebounds) and Rogil Carlos (20 points, 4 rebounds). UE actually led 49-48 after one half but DLSZ woke up and held them to just 25 second half points. The Archers had 23 markers in the third quarter alone, with 22 more in the fourth for good measure.

Bolstering the Warriors’ ranks was Shane Dichoso, who had 20 points on 6-of-6 shooting from downtown after one half. He only scored two more in the second half as his teammate Agem Miranda overtook him by contributing 24 points of his own in the losing effort. UE remains winless at 0-8.

The Adamson University (AdU) Baby Falcons blew out the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) Fighting Maroons, 76-58. The brotherly duo of Andrey and Adam Doria combined for 29 points and 14 rebounds in the Falcons’ win while Matt Santiago dropped 21 points to lead the Maroon charge. UPIS never came close to the Falcons' score as they only managed 17 points for the entire first half. Their 41-point 2nd half did nothing to change their fortunes as they slipped to a 1-7 record for the season. Meanwhile, Adamson ties FEU for 4th at 4-4.

All 8 teams are scheduled next to appear on Wednesday, January 17 at the same venue.

Season 80 Standings (as of January 13, 2018)

School Win-Loss Record

ADMU 8-0

NU 7-1

UST 5-3

FEU 4-4

AdU 4-4

DLSZ 3-5

UPIS 1-7

UE 0-8


Saudi women score right to watch soccer in stadiums

A Saudi woman cheers as she watches a soccer match in Jeddah. (Reuters)
JEDDAH — Women in black abayas and fluorescent orange vests stood at the gates at King Abdullah Stadium, welcoming people into the family section that, for the first time in Saudi Arabia, allowed women to attend a men’s soccer match.

As teams al-Ahli and al-Batin faced each other in the city of Jeddah, women showed up to their first public sporting event in the Kingdom to support the sides with their spouses, children and friends.

The General Sports Authority announced in October that stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh will be set up to accommodate families starting in 2018.

“Honestly this decision should have happened a long time ago,” said Muneera al-Ghamdi, an attendee. “But thank god that it came in the right time, and hopefully what’s to come will be even more beautiful for women.”

The decision to allow women to attend a mixed public sporting event is one of many changes the country has undergone in recent months, hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in the deeply conservative Muslim Kingdom.

On Thursday, Jeddah held Saudi Arabia’s first car exhibition aimed at women, a few months after Saudi Arabia announced it would grant them the right to drive..

A soccer match on Saturday in the capital Riyadh will also be welcoming women fans.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has been hailed as the face of these changes.

Many young Saudis regard his recent ascent to power as proof their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old and blocked women’s progress.

“Today the percentage of those who participate in exercise and sports is only 13 percent,” said Hayfaa al-Sabban, who heads a sport organization.

“We aim god willing to raise it to 40 percent by 2030, through several events, and today’s is one of these events.”

Serena Williams says motherhood may make her better player

BEST TO COME. Serena Williams says the pressure is off her to play, which she feels could make her a better player. Photo by Nezar Balout/AFP

WASHINGTON, USA - Look out, women's tennis. Serena Williams isn't quite back on tour, but she says she wants more Grand Slam titles and may be an even better player after becoming a mother.

In an interview with Vogue magazine published Wednesday, January 10, Williams also recounts the harrowing medical ordeal she went through after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, on September 1.

Williams, 36, played an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi in late December but pulled out of this month's Australian Open, saying she was "super close" but not yet playing at the level needed to compete.

She is now eyeing a return to the women's tour at the Indian Wells tournament in March.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, told Vogue she is determined to win more major titles and surpass the record of 24 Slams held by Australia's Margaret Court.

"Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams," she said. "I'm well aware of the record books, unfortunately.

"It's not a secret that I have my sights on 25," said the 36-year-old Williams.

Williams, who married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian at a star-studded wedding in New Orleans in November, said being a mother may boost her quest.

"Actually, I think having a baby might help," she said. "When I'm too anxious, I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born.

"Knowing I've got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don't have to play another match," she said. "I don't need the money or the titles or the prestige.

"I want them, but I don't need them," she said. "That's a different feeling for me."

Medical ordeal

Williams told Vogue she had an emergency cesarean section after the baby's heart rate fell dangerously low during contractions.

The surgery went well "and then everything went bad," she said.

Williams, who has a history of blood clots, suffered from shortness of breath the day after the birth and told her doctors she needed a CT scan.

Several small blood clots were found in her lungs, and Williams was put on an anticoagulant.

"I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!" she joked.

More complications followed as intense coughing caused her C-section wound to open and a hematoma was found in her abdomen.

After returning home, Williams said she was unable to get out of bed for 6 weeks.

In the interview, Williams also discussed her rivalry with her older sister, Venus.

"I know that her career might have been different if she had had my health," Serena said.

"I know how hard she works," she said. "I hate playing her because she gets this look on her face where she just looks sad if she's losing. Solemn. It breaks my heart.

"So when I play her now, I absolutely don't look at her, because if she gets that look, then I'll start feeling bad, and the next thing you know I'll be losing.

"I think that's when the turning point came in our rivalry, when I stopped looking at her," she said. –

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