AUGUST 22, 2008
(STAR) By Gerry Carpio – Mary Antoinette Rivero will try to accomplish what teammate Tshomlee Go failed to achieve in the men’s division, but she will need all the guts, breaks and prayers to pass through the proverbial eye of the needle in the welterweight event of the Beijing Olympics taekwondo competitions today.

Every stage on her way to a medal won’t be easy for the 20-year-old Athens Olympian who will face 2007 tormentor Sandra Saric of Croatia in the first round and, if successful, probably the world’s top two jins who also defeated her in previous international campaigns.

A loss in the round of 16 or quarterfinal round will relegate Rivero to the repechage or throw her out of the medal round for good depending on whether the player who beat her entered the final round.

A win in the semifinal round assures her of the silver and a chance for the country’s first-ever gold medal since the Philippines’ Olympic participation in 1924.

A loss will bring her back to memories of the 2004 Athens Olympics where she lost to Korean world champion Hwang Hyung-seon and missed the bronze when she bowed to Greek favorite Elisavet Mystikadou in the repechage.

The bouts start at 10 a.m. in the playing hall of the Beijing University of Science and Technology before an expected full house crowd that had booked all tickets two months in advance.

Rivero did her routine stretching and bending exercises and a light workout before her 4 p.m. weigh-in for the 57-67kg event yesterday.

Her entire family – her mother Marilou and father Manuel and her brothers RJ and Mark – had come here Tuesday to cheer the only daughter in the family.

Also expected to be in the stands are First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, chef de mission Monico Puentevella, Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and taekwondo president Robert Aventajado.

National coaches Kim Hong Sik of Korea and Rocky Samson, who will work her corner today, had put her in seclusion, away from the prying eyes of foreign and Manila journalists as she prepared for a make-or-break bid for the country’s first and last medal in the Olympics.

Aventajado,who talked to her over the cellphone on behalf of reporters, said Rivero was in high spirits and is putting all pressures aside and is “looking forward to my fight tomorrow.”

“I had confidence from the start that she will push through. She has a big heart and she comes from a family of fighters,” said Aventajado of Rivero, whose father runs a taekwondo gym in the West Coast while her brothers are taekwondo practitioners who inspired her at age 4 to take up the sport.

“I know the country’s behind me, I will do my best,” she said.

PBA  Crown: King-sized heart, old mettle pull Ginebra thru By Nelson Beltran Friday, August 22, 2008

The losing coach best summed up the amazing feat of injury-hit Barangay Ginebra over Air21’s, winning Smart PBA Fiesta Conference crown before a record crowd of over 23,000 at the Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.

“I have to commend Ginebra for fighting and wanting it more. It’s not that we didn’t want it. We wanted it badly but they showed they wanted it more,” said Air21 coach Bo Perasol.

Ginebra coach Jong Uichico had no ready answer on how they did the trick, giving the credit to his players for not giving up in the face of tough challenge and adversities.

“It’s hard to explain how we won it,” said Uichico..

The Kings leaned on their never-say-die attitude to overcame a series of player injuries that hounded the team from the start of the tourney to the finish route to their eighth title in 17 finals appearances

It helped that Ginebra got an import also with a winning attitude. Chris Alexander himself got hurt in the third quarter of the deciding Game Seven, but played on.

“Chris just told me, ‘It’s the last game. I’ll just play this through,’” related Uichico.

In the end, the injury-and-foul-saddled Alexander finished with 19 rebounds, 16 points, four blocks, one assist and one steal and made life hard for Air21 counterpart Steven Thomas.

The 7-foot-1 behemoth shone throughout the tourney, leading Ginebra to a 20-6 win-loss record after taking over from Ernest Brown.

With practically all their teammates hurting, Ronald Tubid and Eric Menk seized the moment, powering the team with a combined outputs of 43 points and 17 rebounds in the 97-84 title-clincher. The two were later named Finals co-MVPs.

Experience and defense proved to be vital factors in the all-or-nothing game with the Kings thriving under pressure and the Express crumbling down, going scoreless in the last four minutes of the contest.

Perasol, for his part, said they hoped they become a better team with the experience and put the bitter defeat on a spiritual perspective.

“If we win, I promised God I’ll give Him the glory. If He thinks a Ginebra win will give Him more glory, then so be it,” he said. “Siguro, He wanted to make so many more people happy. So, if that would mean we would be the one to take the toll, that would be fine.”

A predominantly Ginebra crowd of over 23,000 watched the match. PBA officials said that’s the biggest crowd seen in the league since the glory days of the Crispa-Toyota rivalry.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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