GUANGZHOU—At the athletes’ lounge of the Tianhe Bowling Hall Monday afternoon, Biboy Rivera paced the floor like crazy, killing a tormenting five-hour wait by alternately sipping bottled water and playing games on his iPod.
He had just emerged the top scorer in the first block of the men’s singles finals two hours before and the second block of over 50 bowlers was about to start their own six-game series—all of them turning Rivera’s 1414 into a kingpin of sorts: A target they hoped to demolish.
And this second block of bowlers was no ordinary one.
“All the top contenders were in that block,” Rivera said late Monday evening.
In fact, if coach Lito Trasporto knew how, he would have tried otherworldly means to halt what looked like a dangerous opening three games by eventual silver medalist Mohammed A.M.A. Alrgeebah of Kuwait and Thai Somjed Kusonpithak.
“Kung puwede lang kulamin, kinulam ko na (I would have cast a spell on them if I could),” Trasporto jokingly told the Inquirer on his way back to the Athletes’ Village here Monday evening.
As fate had it, voodoo incantations were no longer needed.
Kusonpithak faded and Alrgeebah burned his last chance when he missed a key strike that would have pressed his own siege on Rivera’s score.
In the end, it was Frederick Ong, Rivera’s teammate, who had the last chance to topple Rivera. But it no longer mattered—a Filipino was going home with the men’s singles gold.
“At least we made up for our zero performance in the Asiad in Doha,” said Rivera, an entrepreneur, who finished third in the recent World Cup.
“It was a very agonizing wait,” he said. “The feeling was so uncomfortable, it’s hard to really describe it. I kept walking around the lounge, I was playing games.
“Three or four games into the second block, [Alrgeebah and Kusonpithak] were on pace to break my score. I didn’t want to expect my score to hold up because it would only hurt if someone broke it.”
Ironically, when he was told that his score remained unscathed, his first reaction was of disbelief. Then he saw the tears welling in the eyes of his coach, former bowling standout Jojo Cañare, and he knew it was for real.
“I really thought it was a joke,” Rivera said, laughing at the memory. “And all of a sudden I was very, very happy.”
“It’s a great victory for the bowling team right on the first day of competition,” said Cañare. “The players worked so had for this and it’s fitting that they gave the country its first gold here.
Four years ago in the Doha Asiad, the Philippines failed to land a single bowling medal, bombing out in all 12 events that dangled gold. Photo from Varistarian Sports Magazine