DECEMBER 12, 2006
(STAR) By Dante Navarro - Antonio Gabica came back from a shattering defeat to assure the Philippines of its first gold medal, forging an all-Filipino final with Jeffrey de Luna in the billiards 9-ball event in the 15th Doha Asian Games late Monday night.

Gabica, who lost the gold in the 8-ball final, blasted Korean Jeoung Young Hwa, 11-5, in the semis to seal the title duel for the 9-ball gold with De Luna who earlier routed Taiwanís Yang Ching Shun, 11-7, hours after he snatched a thrilling hill-hill duel over Yukio Akagariyama of Japan, 11-10, in the quarters.

Thus, after 11 frustrating days in various fronts, the Filipinos finally found one in the sport that has become the benchmark of Filipino sporting excellence in the year.

Gabica, who lost to Japanese Satoshi Kawabata in the 8-ball final Saturday night but who had a rare five-golden-break feat in disposing off Chinese Xu Meng, 11-8, in the quarters, disputes the gold medal with Luna at 7:30 p.m. (12:30 a.m. Tuesday in Manila).

The gold medal showdown further underscored the domination by the Filipinos in the sport after the triumphs of Bata Reyes and Django Bustamante in the inaugural World Cup, the win by Reyes in the IPT World 8-ball Open, and Ronnie Alcanoís recent win in the World 9-Ball Championship.

It could also fuel the RP betsí gold medal rush at the finish of the quadrennial meet.

Rookie Joan Tipon put one over Athens Olympics silver medalist Worapoj Petchkoom in their tightly fought duel that was decided via tiebreak in the bantamweight division to join compatriot Violito Payla in the finals.

Tipon fought back from three points down, blew a two-point lead, then prevailed in the end of the thrilling contest that ended in 13-all and needed a countback to give the Filipino fighter a passage to the final.

"It was a hard-fought victory," said Tipon. "I dedicate this victory to my country and my family. I will give my best to win (the gold)."

The victory over the Athens Olympics silver medalist thus broke the Thaisí domination of the Filipinos in the sport and Tiponís win avenged the defeat suffered earlier by fellow rookie Godfrey Castro, who bowed to a stylish Suban Pannon via RSC (referee stopped contest) in the third round in their semifinal showdown in the lightflyweight division. Castro settled for the bronze.

Genebert Basadre also took the bronze after bowing to Chinese Hu Qing, 18-29, in the lightweight semis.

The day also saw golfer Michael Bibat cap his notable four-day performance and cop the bronze medal in the individual competition at the Doha Golf Club and Cecil Mamiit gain a crack at the final in menís singles in tennis.

Mamiit battled back from a set down to turn back Wang Yeu Tzuoo of Taiwan, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win, to reach the semis at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. A medal of any mint for Mamiit will end a 40-year drought for the RP netters in the Asiad.

The 30-year-old Los Angeles-based Mamiit, who pocketed two gold medals for the country in last yearís Manila SEA Games, will face Korean Lee Hyung Taik in the semis set Tuesday.

Mamiit later teamed up with fellow Fil-Am Eric Taino and pulled off a pulsating three-setter over Uzbekistanís Denis Istomin and Murad Inoyatov to advance to the semifinals of the menís doubles.

Two wushu experts advanced to the quarterfinals of the sanshou division. World champion Rene Catalan defeated Hudarayov Utkir of Kyrgyzstan, 5-0,5-0, and Mark Eddiva outclassed Fedoseev Aleksey also of Kyrgyzstan, 5-0, 5-0.

The bronze medals by Castro, Basadre and Bibat hiked Team RPís haul to 0-3-6 (gold-silver-bronze) even as Korea, banking on a sweep of four gold medals in golf, surged past Japan (38-47-55) for No. 2 with 43-36-67.

China was way ahead with 114-64-41.

Bibat, the former Singapore Open champion, closed out with a 70 to finish tied for third at 279 with Singaporeís Choo Tze Huang (70) and Korean Kim Doo Hoon Sr. (72). Bibat won in the countback with a 34 at the back. Korean Kim Kyung Tae bagged the gold with a 276 after a 70 while Pan Cheng Tsung of Taiwan took the silver with a 277 after a 72.

The RP team, however, failed to gain headway and finished fifth with 857 after a 216, behind gold medal winner Korea (215-836), India (217-849), Taiwan (220-850) and Japan (222-853).

The Koreans swept all four golds staked in the event. The Filipinos, however, beat SEA Games rivals Singapore (865), Malaysia (868) and Thailand (870).

Dottie Ardina capped her comeback from an opening six-over 79 with a one-under 72, finishing 13th with a two-under 290. Cyna Rodriguez, who fired a two-under 71 in the first round, struggled with a 74 and wound up 15th with a 295.

The Korean ladies posted a 13-stroke victory in the team event with 534 after a 133 while Japan took the silver with a 136-547) and Taiwan settled for bronze with a 550 after a 141 followed by China (141-566), the Philippines (144-569) and Thailand (148-584).

At the Equestrian Jumping Arena, rider Danielle Cojuangco had a flawless round aboard Kidit Saint Clair but the RP equestrian team, runner-up in the Show jumping competition in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, struggled to finish sixth in the event won by Saudi Arabia.

The 20-year-old Cojuangco, who had 8 penalties Sunday, cleared her round Monday but Toni Leviste and Juan Ramon Lanza had 4 each and the Philippines wound up with 28 penalties to finish in sixth. Paola Zobel didnít count with 31 and 20 penalties in the two-day event.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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