(STAR) And then there were eight.

Following two months of grueling preliminaries, eight cyber athletes lorded it over the rest to clinch the championship titles in the recently concluded World Cyber Games (WCG) Philippine finals.

The winners were Israel Magante for Need for Speed, Arby Jao for Warcraft, Byron Bongon for Starcraft, and Horsemen of the Apocalypse (HoA) for Counter-Strike. HoA is composed of Kris Romillo, Arvin Agbisit, Paolo Nacho, Justin Chan, and Kenichi Enda. Each winner received P15,000 and a Samsung Miniket Sports camcorder.

Later this October, all eight champions will have the exciting opportunity to play against the world’s best and vie for over $400,000 in prizes at the 2006 World Cyber Games Grand Finals in Monza, Italy.

Representatives from International Cyber Marketing (ICM), global organizer of WCG, and global sponsor Samsung awarded the prizes.

According to Tjader Regis, WCG Philippines team leader and project manager, this year’s national finals proved that local gamers are getting better every year.

"In terms of performance, our cyber athletes continue to build from strength to strength. We’re definitely seeing stronger players now – a good sign because this means the competition level locally is gaining ground," he said.

Regis is hopeful that this year’s crop of e-sportsmen will play up to par at the WCG Finals in Italy.

Last year, the RP Counterstrike team reached the semifinals, the country’s best showing yet since the Philippines started sending representatives in 2002.

"The Filipinos’ never-say-die spirit really comes out when we participate in the WCG Grand Finals," Regis said. "The grand ambition is to bring home a medal. We’re not quite there yet, but for sure the international exposure helps a lot and our gamers always come home with improved levels of skill and commitment."

He added that WCG organizers also hope that the positive experiences from this year’s games will serve as a booster to the growing electronic gaming community.

"We want to promote gaming as a legitimate athletic event. Similar to any other sport, you need skill, strategy and discipline to be a champion gamer," he said.

The three-day electronic gaming festival drew crowds and was staged with the support of some of the country’s top technology companies led by Samsung Electronics.

As global sponsor of World Cyber Games, Samsung has been at the forefront of promoting a healthy cyber gaming culture among the youth.

In his speech, Samsung Philippines president and CEO Spencer Shim noted the high potential displayed by the young gamers who saw action in the Philippine finals.

"WCG goes beyond simple gaming and entertainment," he said. "Samsung recognizes that this event will promote the youth’s competitive spirit, cultivate their creative talents, and help them become more involved in current technologies."

For the Philippine finals, the games line-up included Counter-Strike 1.6, Starcraft: Brood War, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Counter-Strike 1.6 is a fast-paced shooting game pitting some of the world’s top elite forces against terrorists.

StarCraft: Brood War, on the other hand, is a real-time strategy game where players control any of three different species battling for domination.

Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is an impressive expansion pack continuing some of the loose ends of the original game while spinning off some new plots of its own.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is the latest of EA’s successful series of multi-platform racing computer games featuring exciting police chases.

The event also featured PangYa, an online multi-player casual golf simulation game, as a special game.

Since 2000, the World Cyber Games has been the world’s biggest gaming competition and festival, attracting more than 800 competitors from approximately 70 countries.

Dubbed the "Olympics of computer gaming," the World Cyber Games brings the world’s top players together to compete for cash prizes and global recognition.

This year’s World Cyber Games Grand Finals will see a record of about 700 gamers from 70 countries converging in Monza, Italy.

The official slogan "Beyond the Game" signifies the WCG’s commitment to achieve harmony and friendship among the world’s youth through cyber games.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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