EJ Obiena kicked off his Olympic buildup on a high note as he claims a silver medal in the men’s pole vault event of the 13th Trivento International Meeting in Trieste, Italy.
Obiena, the country’s first qualifier to the Tokyo Olympics, soared with 5.45 meters to tie his golden performance in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December.
Rio de Janeiro Olympics champion Thiago Braz de Silva of Brazil claimed the gold medal with 5.50 meters while Italian star Max Mandusic settled for bronze with 5.35 meters in the competition that serves as Obiena’s first battle since Italy went on nationwide lockdown due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico said it was a job well done for Obiena regardless of the color of his medal.
After all, he was not in perfect shape as his training was hampered by a back injury he suffered last month.
“That was his first competition since the pandemic, so it is understandable. I think he was really targeting around 5.50 meters,” Juico said.
“He just came off an injury so that is really a good performance.”
Obiena is now set to see action in the prestigious Diamond League on 14 August followed by a virtual tournament on 17 August.
MIAMI (AFP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 60 points as the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers seized control of their Western Conference finals series with a 114-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
James finished with 26 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists and Davis had 34 points as Lakers held on to beat the Nuggets and take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Game 5 is Saturday in Orlando. The Lakers have wrapped up both their previous series in five games.
Canadian forward Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 32 points and eight assists while Jerami Grant finished with 17 for Denver.
Serbia’s Nikola Jokic was held in check most of the game and finished with a disappointing 16 points. He missed all four field goal attempts in the fourth.
James took it upon himself to guard Murray with the game on the line.
“He’s is one of the hottest guys in the bubble,” said James.
“He’s very shifty to guard. I just use my length and athleticism, high hand him and meet him at the basket.”
Denver has dug another big hole in these playoffs and if they are going to advance to the NBA finals they will have to come back from a 3-1 deficit for the third straight series.
Denver lost Game 4 in each of its first two series against Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers before making a pair of historic comebacks.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points and Rajon Rondo tallied 11 points for the Lakers, who bounced back from a loss in Game 3 in which they rebounded poorly by outscoring the Nuggets, 25-6, in second-chance points.
“We knew coming in that we didn’t rebound at all (in Game 3) and we just tried to change that,” James said.
The Lakers took the lead 10-9 on a 17-foot basket by Davis with 8:16 left in the first quarter and headed the close contest the rest of the way.
Davis and James got the Lakers off to a strong start by combining for 14 points in the first quarter as the Lakers led by seven, 37-30, heading into the second.
James got the Lakers’ final points of the first quarter with a dunk after Rondo stole the ball and ran all the way up the court before making a nifty back pass to James who slammed it home.
Lakers guard Rondo finished with seven assists to pass Scottie Pippen for eighth place on the all-time playoff list. He had eight assists in Game 3 to surpass Kobe Bryant on the list.
James, Davis and Dwight Howard were the only Lakers to have multiple baskets in the first quarter. Davis rolled his ankle in the second half but said afterwards it was fine.
Lakers stretched their lead to 12 points in the second quarter but the Nuggets, led by Murray, came storming back. They outscored the Lakers, 25-23, in the second to cut the deficit to just five at the half, 60-55.
Murray led the Nuggets in the first half, scoring 16 points on seven of nine shooting from the floor.
Lakers missed 10 of their last 12 shots before the half but they got some unexpected scoring from 34-year-old journeyman Howard who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, almost all of them coming in the first half.
Murray was outstanding, making several falling, spinning and even one leaping left-handed basket. But on the rare occasion he did miss, Murray didn’t get a lot of support from his rebounders.
He made one of the most dynamic layups of the postseason when he went one-on-one with James in the first half and reached up while falling and — with a flick of the wrist — spun the ball off the backboard.
He made another basket halfway through the third to surpass 20 points in the game, making it the seventh straight game he has reached at least 20 points.
The Nuggets went on an 11-4 run at the end of the third to close the gap to 87-84.
But the Lakers started the fourth by going on a 6-0 run of their own.
The Nuggets managed to keep the score close until the end, but they missed their last five shots of the game as the Lakers played better down the stretch.
Casimero shows self-control
You would think John Riel Casimero was going to lose it and gorge on the box of culinary delights that was brought yesterday to his hotel room in Uncasville, Connecticut.
But 12 hours before the official weigh-in, Casimero displayed a trait that left American boxing man Sean Gibbons praising the discipline and work ethic of the reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight king.
Casimero, who defends the WBO 118-pound crown for the first time this Sunday against Ghanaian challenger Duke Micah at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino, was cool, calm and collected when the food came.
There was a big plate of spaghetti and ube ensaymada and the pièce de résistance: bulalo (beef marrow soup).
Prepared by a United States-based Filipino who runs a small grocery store cum restaurant 60 miles away in the town of Wallingford, the food will be stored in the fridge for the meantime.
Instead of getting tempted, Casimero just looked away, according to Gibbons, who marveled at his fighter’s self-control.
“Amazingly, he’s not even in a foul mood,” Gibbons said, noting how cranky fighters are in the final moments of the weighin behave.
“He is a real professional.”
A day before the weighin Casimero was two pounds over although that’s normal.
“Later, I will make the weight,” Casimero told the Daily Tribune, stressing that after a workout, he will shed off the excess baggage and be primed and ready to conquer the scales.
Monico wants to stop polls
Monico Puentevella will call for the postponement of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) elections the body sits down in a general assembly on 30 September.
A former chairman of the POC who now heads the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas, Puentevella said the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the country makes it hard for POC members to cast their votes in the quadrennial polls set on 27 November.
For instance, three-time Olympian Hidilyn Diaz is doubtful to cast her votes as athletes representative since she remains stranded in Kuala Lumpur.
Aside from Diaz, a lot of national sports association leaders are also in the provinces like Richard Gomez of fencing and Prospero “Butch” Pichay of chess.
“There’s no way for us to go to Manila just for their political ambitions,” said Puentevella, who is also stranded in his province in Bacolod, where the number of coronavirus cases is high.
“For an election exercise to be effective, it needs the involvement of all members. Since most of us are stranded in our respective provinces, it would be impossible for us to cast our votes.”
Puentevella said he will propose for the elections to be held either in January or February — or when the coronavirus slows down.
After all, it will not look good if the POC will choose its new set of leaders while major leagues, except for the Philippine Basketball Association, have yet to restart their respective seasons.
Brothers headline 5-title fight card
NEW YORK (AFP) — Twins Jermell and Jermall Charlo headline a card packed with five world title fights on Saturday, with World Boxing Council (WBC) super welterweight champ Jermell taking on World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation (IBF) title holder Jeison Rosario in a unification bout.
The matchup is Jermell Charlo’s first since he won the WBC belt with a knockout of Tony Harrison in December.
“Saturday night is going to be my history-making performance,” said Jermell, who brings a record of 33-1 with 17 knockouts into the bout.
“This is something that I’ve always wanted and that I’ve always trained for.
“I’ve put in the hard work for every fight I’ve ever had, and this is what it’s all been for.”
It’s only the second fight in the division with three world titles at stake, and the first for Rosario since he stopped American Julian Williams in the fifth round in January to claim his two belts.
“This is going to be a war,” vowed Dominican Rosario. “I’m a warrior, and I’m going to find a way to win. That’s the only thing on my mind.
“There’s no room in my mind for the possibility of not winning.”
Rosario, 20-1-1 with 14 knockouts, said training camp had been “great” despite the coronavirus pandemic that brought boxing, along with the rest of the sports world, to a halt earlier this year.
Saturday’s fights will be held without spectators at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Unbeaten Jermall Charlo, 30-0 with 22 knockouts, defends his WBC middleweight title against Ukraine’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
Derevyanchenko, 13-2 with 10 knockouts, said he’s prepared to give the American “his toughest test” at middleweight.
“The green color of the WBC belt suits me,” Derevyanchenko said. “I want that green belt.”
Derevyanchenko has come up short in two prior title bids, including a disputed decision defeat to Gennadiy Golovkin in a bruising IBF clash at Madison Square Garden in October of 2019.
Tsitsipas survives Cuevas
HAMBURG, Germany (AFP) — Stefanos Tsitsipas needed to see off a tough opening-set challenge before beating qualifier Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP tournament in Hamburg.
Tsitsipas, the top seed in Hamburg after US Open semifinalist Daniil Medvedev was knocked out in the first round, saved four break points at 4-4 and another at 5-5 in the first set.
The 22-year-old then pulled away to take the first set and then clinch his 20th match win this season.
In the quarterfinals, Greek Tsitsipas, who is ranked sixth in the world, will face Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.
Lajovic, 30, needed just over an hour to blast his way into the Last Eight with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Russian eighth-seed Karen Khachanov.
PFL seeks IATF nod
The Philippine Football League (PFL) had already plotted its calendar and is now seeking the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to kick off its fourth season.
PFL commissioner Coco Torre said they have already finalized their proposed schedule in which they would start their scrimmages on 1 October before ushering the new season 15 days later at the Philippine Football Federation training center in Carmona, Cavite.
He said they are looking to stage the games in a bubble format within 45 days while following strict health and safety protocols by the IATF.
“We have already drafted the letter. We are planning to submit the letter to the IATF about the start of the season as well as our proposal to start the scrimmages,” Torre said, adding that they are hopeful of the government approval since they have been successfully observing all protocols in their training and conditioning sessions.
“Since the start of the training season, nothing unfortunate has happened within the teams. That’s why we think the scrimmages can start soon.”
So far, the league is ready to roll out its new season with six teams in reigning champion United City FC, Kaya Iloilo FC, Stallion Laguna FC, Mendiola FC, Maharlika FC and the Azkals Development Team.
Torre said everybody has been cooperative, giving the IATF a reason to approve their opening, similar to what it gave to the Philippine Basketball Association last Thursday.
“We are really strict when it comes to training protocols, and we really appreciate that all the teams are following it,” Torre said.
“Little by little, we can see that football is improving in the country again. It shows that we really have to continue pursuing this season.”
No popping of PBA bubble
Now that the government approval had been formally secured, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) vowed to do its best to observe all health and safety protocols to make sure that the resumption of its aborted season would be trouble-free.
PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said members of all 12 teams were all committed to follow the health and safety protocols as they head into the PBA bubble at the Quest Hotel inside the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
After a long break due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the PBA is finally back.
With no less than Vince Dizon, the deputy implementer of the national COVID-19 task force as its chief backer, the league secured the a provisional authority from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to restart its season on 11 October.
Although there is a possibility that the government might withdraw its approval in case somebody tests positive, Vargas and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial assured that they wouldn’t let their bubble pop.
“Just like what the commissioner said, if we are going to have a bubble and we are not going to give everything we can for this, then we might as well call it off,” Vargas, the governor of TNT KaTropa, said.
“They are committed to the bubble. The players are all committed.”
Vargas said Dizon, also the president of the Bases Conversion Development Authority, would cover the weekly testing on some 350 delegates that include players, coaches, team managers, PBA staff and media.
Transcription polymerase chain reaction tests were already done last 23 and 24 September for those who would enter the bubble on 29 and 29 September.
Players who were tested, however, have to undergo 24-hour quarantine before getting the green light to join scrimmages.
Vargas said they would use a application called “StaySafe PH” for monitoring and contact-tracing.
“Stay Safe is a monitoring system that will do contact-tracing and will allow us to know where the players are and if there’s a proper distancing,” Vargas said.
Dizon clarified that all the safety nets are already in place, including the provision that players must wear masks even while they are sitting on the bench.
French Open cuts attendance
PARIS, France (AFP) — A maximum of only 1,000 spectators will be allowed each day at Roland Garros after the French government insisted on tougher restrictions to counter the resurgence of the coronavirus.
Organisers of the French Open, which gets underway four months later than planned in Paris on Sunday, had hoped for a maximum of 5,000.
That figure had already been reduced from 20,000 and then 11,500.
The decision by the French government will be a huge blow to Roland Garros which last year attracted on average around 37,000 fans a day.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, speaking on France 2 TV, insisted that the Grand Slam tournament must be subject to the same restrictions imposed on sports events taking place in designated ‘red zones’ where the coronavirus is showing signs of resurgence.
“We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere,” said Castex.
“We go from 5,000 to 1,000.”
Sources told AFP, however, that the figure does not include credential holders such as officials, media, players and staff.
Earlier Thursday, French Open chief Guy Forget said he had hoped to protect the 5,000 limit.
“We still hope to have 5,000 spectators,” said the tournament director.
Forget believed that the nature of the Roland Garros complex would work in the tournament’s favour.
“We are able to accommodate 5,000, as small as it is, on a 12-hectare area,” he added.
“Even if we must remain extremely careful, we have all the guarantees so that this tournament takes place in maximum security conditions.
“We are responsible, but all this must be done with the approval of the government.”
He added: “We stage the tournament on the equivalent of 15 football fields, outdoors. Everyone wears a mask, even the ball boys and girls and chair umpires.”
The limit of 1,000 fans a day represents less than 3 percent of last year’s total attendance of almost 520,000.
There will also be financial repercussions.
In 2019, Roland Garros accounted for around 80 percent of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) budget — 255.4 million euros out of a total 325 million.
Ticket sales generates nearly 20 percent of tournament revenue.
When the planned limit was 11,500 spectators, Forget estimated that “the tournament’s proceeds (would) be halved,” which corresponded to between 130 and 140 million euros.
The reduction to just 1,000 spectators will further increase the shortfall.
Organizers will also have to take new steps to placate angry ticket holders.
Feet of clay
PARIS, France (AFP) — The undisputed king of clay, Rafael Nadal is one title away from matching Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam record, but 15 years on from the Spaniard’s first French Open triumph he appears more vulnerable than ever at his beloved Roland Garros.
Nadal owns an astounding 93-2 record in Paris dating back to his debut in 2005, when, still a teenager, he became the first player to win the French Open on his first attempt since Mats Wilander in 1982.
Fast-forward to the present day, and his 19 Grand Slam crowns — a record 12 of which have come at Roland Garros — coupled with Federer’s absence after knee surgery leave him on the brink of history at a venue where he has won each of the past three years.
Yet a multitude of factors, mostly beyond his control, have conspired against Nadal and offered hope to his chief rivals — namely Novak Djokovic and recent US Open winner Dominic Thiem.
Boris Becker, a former coach of world No. 1 Djokovic, suggested the rescheduled tournament — pushed back from its traditional spring billing due to the coronavirus pandemic — will be tougher than usual for Nadal.
The heavier conditions could suit hardcourt players more and negate some of Nadal’s lethal topspin, possibly aiding Thiem who has finished runner-up in Paris twice in succession.
“This year is going to be particularly hard for Rafael Nadal. He’s my No. 1 favorite but the difference between him and the other players is less big this year than usual,” said Becker, a six-time Grand Slam champion.
“He’s not in his regular rhythm. He needs match practice. Normally, he was coming to Roland Garros having often played four big clay tournaments, which he had generally won.”
Nadal will head into the French Open without a clay title under his belt for the first time, having lost in straight sets to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals at Rome — his first tournament in six months.
“It’s not a moment for excuses. I’ve spent a long time without competing, I played two good matches,” Nadal, who skipped the US Open citing Covid-19 concerns, said following the defeat.
“It’s a completely special and unpredictable year,” he added.
“I did my job here. I did a couple things well and other things bad. At least I played three matches.”
Despite the sense this is the most understrength version of Nadal at the French Open in recent times, Djokovic remains adamant the 34-year-old is again the favorite to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
“The record that he has there, the history of his results, you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” said Djokovic, himself vying to add to his lone 2016 triumph at Roland Garros.
“But, you know, definitely Diego showed that Nadal is beatable on clay,” the Serb added.
“The conditions that they played on, obviously heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night sessions, we are going to have that as well in Paris. I’m pretty sure that he does not prefer that to a high bounce. I know he likes the high bounce.”
“He likes the hot and warm and fast conditions, where he can use his spin a lot. Even though he’s the favorite, I think there are players that can win against him there.”
Another championship run for Nadal, not accounting for potential walkovers, would take him to a century of wins at the French Open.
Only Federer, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have hit triple digits in wins at a single major in the Open era.
Schwartzman agreed that Nadal was still the favorite.
“Rafa is the king. It’s his house. He went to Roland Garros many years playing good, sometimes not playing his best and he won.”
“I think Rafa is always there, the guy who is going to win.”
A maximum of only 1,000 spectators will be allowed each day at Roland Garros after the French government insisted on tougher restrictions to counter the resurgence of the coronavirus.
Organizers of the French Open, which gets underway four months later than planned in Paris on Sunday, had hoped for a maximum of 5,000.
That figure had already been reduced from 20,000 and then 11,500.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex insisted that the Grand Slam tournament must be subject to the same restrictions imposed on sports events taking place in designated ‘red zones’ where the coronavirus is showing signs of resurgence.
“We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere,” said Castex.
“We go from 5,000 to 1,000.”