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#Remember2023: Philippines makes mark in sports
#Remember2023: Philippines makes mark in sports
Sports
#Remember2023: Philippines makes mark in sports
by Kristan Carag25 December 2023
Photo from the Philippine Sports Commission Facebook page

Sports continue to make headlines in the Philippines in 2023. Both in triumph and defeat, Filipinos continue to follow and show their support for the national athletes as they compete across the globe.

PHL HOSTS 2023 FIBA WORLD CUP

The Philippines co-hosted the 2023 FIBA World Cup alongside Japan and Indonesia. Held from August 25 to September 10, the event brought together the top national men's basketball teams of various countries.

As a country known for loving basketball, Filipinos felt ecstatic to host the tournament since 1978.

Filipinos further felt excited by the FIBA World Cup after the SBP released the line-up of Gilas Pilipinas, the national men’s basketball team of the Philippines.

Jordan Clarkson, the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, headlined the 12-man roster of the country. Including Clarkson, 55 NBA players competed in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

In preparation for the quadrennial meet, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed Administrative Order No. 5 that created an inter-agency task force for the 'streamlining, integrating, harmonizing, and coordinating all government efforts with the plans and programs of the (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) and its Local Organizing Committee, towards the effective preparation and successful participation of all delegates in the FIBA World Cup 2023'.

Malacanang also issued Memorandum Circular No. 27 that suspended classes in public schools and work in government offices in Metro Manila and Bulacan on August 25, the opening day of the World Cup.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) also offered a 50 percent discount for all students and teachers of higher education institutions for the opening ceremony in Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The discount was extended to other select games.

A total of 38,115 spectators watched the opening ceremony, a new record-high for the World Cup. However, the excitement of the Filipinos quickly turned to disappointment after Gilas fell to the Dominican Republic, 87-81, on the opening day.

The woes of the hosts continued as they suffered back-to-back losses against Angola (80-70), Italy (90-83), and South Sudan (87-68).

Gilas Pilipinas managed to salvage their FIBA World Cup campaign and end their losing streak with a 96-75 win against China. Clarkson proved his NBA-caliber talent by scoring 34 points, while Rhen Abando led the locals with 14 points. The victory also allowed the Philippines to secure a spot in the qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.

Germany lifted the Naismith Trophy after defeating Serbia, 83-77, in the championship match held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Dennis Schroder, who earned the Most Valuable Player award, scored 28 points to pave the way for the first-ever FIBA World Cup title in Germany.

GILAS PILIPINAS ENDS ASIAN GAMES TITLE-DROUGHT

Following the FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas and their Filipino fans turned their sights to the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. However, the preparations of the Philippine team for the multi-sports event hit a snag after Coach Chot Reyes announced his departure from Gilas Pilipinas.

Even before the FIBA World Cup, some basketball fans questioned the appointment of Reyes as head tactician of the national team, and the four straight losses in the international meet ignited their ire against the multi-awarded coach. Even during the FIBA World Cup game, Filipino fans voice their displeasure by booing Reyes. SBP tapped Coach Tim Cone to fill the void left by the departure of Reyes.

Justin Brownlee, who became a naturalized Filipino earlier this year, replaced Jordan Clarkson in the Gilas Pilipinas roster.

The changes, however, did not stop the Filipinos from completing their mission: Regaining the Asian Games crown. Gilas Pilipinas bested Jordan, 70-60, to claim the first Asian Games gold of the Philippines in basketball since 1962.

Brownlee scored 20 points and Ange Kouame added 14 points for the Filipinos to avenge their 87-62 loss at the hands of Jordan in the preliminaries, the sole defeat of the Filipinos in the tournament. Rondae Hollis Jefferson, who helped TNT Tropang Giga win the 2023 PBA Commissioner's Cup title, led Jordan with 24 points

Including the gold medal of Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippines finished with four gold medals, two silver medals, and 12 bronze medals in the 19th Asian Games, which formally opened on September 23 and ended on October 8. The other gold medalists include EJ Obiena (men's pole vault), Meggie Ochoa (jiu-jitsu), and Annie Ramirez (jiu-jitsu).

Less than a week after the Asian Games came to an end, the triumph of Gilas Pilipinas came under threat. In a report on October 12, the International Testing Agency announced that Brownlee tested positive for Carboxy-THC, a specified Prohibited Substance, according to the Prohibited List of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Olympic Council of Asia later assured that the gold medal would remain with the Philippines since no other Gilas Pilipinas player tested positive for a prohibited substance.

PHILIPPINES REGAIN SEA GAMES GOLD IN BASKETBALL

Aside from the Asian Games, Gilas Pilipinas also regained the crown in the Southeast Asian Games. The Filipinos once again became the basketball kings in Southeast Asia after defeating Cambodia, 80-69.

Before the title match, the Philippines bested the defending champions, Indonesia, 84-76, in the semifinals.

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After 31 years of dominating the basketball arena in Southeast Asia, the Philippines lose the crown to Indonesia in the previous SEA Games.

In addition to the gold medal of the Philippine national men's basketball team, the country also snagged 57 gold medals, 85 silver medals, and 117 bronze medals in the multi-sports events held from May 5 to May 16 in Cambodia.

FILIPINAS DEBUT IN FIFA WORLD CUP

Outside of basketball, the Philippines also made history in football.

The Philippine national women's football team notched the first win and first goal of the country in the FIFA Women's World Cup. Sarina Bolden made the goal that allowed the Filipinas to snag a 1-0 win against New Zealand during the 2023 edition of the tournament.

While the Filipinas finished the competition with a 1-2 win-loss record, the impressive World Cup debut of the national team earned them praise even in the Senate. The Upper House of Congress adopted Resolution No. 80 which commends the Filipinas for emerging victorious against New Zealand.

The resolution stated that the Filipinas 'won the respect and admiration of Filipinos and football fans around the world in their debut appearance at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup'.

"The Philippine Senate takes great pride in acknowledging and celebrating the exceptional achievements of Filipino athletes who have brought honor and glory to our nation," the resolution read.

"This triumphant achievement resonates deeply with the Filipino people, as it not only showcases the team’s prowess on the global stage but also symbolizes the resilience and indomitable spirit of the Philippines," the resolution added.

EJ OBIENA CLEARS SIX-METER MARK

Filipino pole vaulter and Asian record-holder EJ Obiena also continues to make a name for himself in 2023.

The 27-year-old athlete became the first Asian to clear the height of six meters in the men's pole vault. Obiena set a new personal best and Asian record last July 10 during the Bergen Jump Challenge in Bryggen, Norway, where he struck gold.

Obiena, currently ranked no. 2 in the world, has also qualified for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. He booked a spot in the Paris Games after clearing 5.82 meters in the 2023 Stockholm Diamond League in Sweden last July 2.

He then settled for a silver-medal finish competition after World Record holder and Olympic gold medalist Armand Duplantis seized the top spot by clearing 6.05 meters

Amidst his numerous podium finishes in 2023, controversy still hounded the pole vaulter.

Last October, Anais Lavillenie, the wife of French pole vaulter and 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie, alleged that Obiena takes performance-enhancement drugs on social media.

In a comment on the Facebook page of Vaulter Magazine - Vaulter Club Inc., Anais mentioned that Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz failed a doping test last July. Both Braz and Obiena train under Coach Vitaly Petrov.

Obiena denied the allegations and even considered taking legal action against Anais.

In a press conference, the pole vaulter champ presented the results of his doping tests to belie the allegations. He also underwent two lie detector tests to further disprove the accusations.

Days later, the pole-vaulter posted an apology letter sent by Anais, which put an end to the issue.

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