Paeng Nepomuceno]

MANILA, FEBRUARY 4, 2009 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson -  Paeng Nepomuceno joins an elite cast of 16 top international bowlers disputing the first prize at the World Tenpin Masters in Barnsley, England, on April 17-19 and the Hall of Famer said he’s feeling stronger than ever after celebrating his 52nd birthday last Friday.

“I’ll definitely be the oldest in the tournament,” said Nepomuceno who is bidding for his seventh world title. “All or most of my contemporaries have long retired. Jason Belmonte, an Australian, is only 25 and I’m proud to mention I beat him for the South Pacific Classic title, the most prestigious Australian bowling championship, the year he won the World Tenpin Masters in 2007.”

Nepomuceno bagged the World Tenpin Masters crown and took home the $30,000 first prize in London in 1999. He finished third in 2002.

The World Tenpin Masters is strictly invitational and convenes 16 of the world’s best of the best. Nepomuceno was this year’s first invitee. He will receive the prestigious 2009 World Bowling Writers Mort Luby Jr. Distinguished Service Award during the tournament, it was recently announced by World Tenpin Bowling Association president Keviun Dornberger.

Nepomuceno’s citation is a reflection of the United States Bowling Congress’ efforts in creating an international training program for coaches to bolster the global network of the governing body Federation Internationale des Quillleurs (FIQ) in line with its campaign to include the sport in the Olympics. Nepomuceno, who holds three Guinness world records (for being the youngest to win a World Cup at 19 in 1976, for winning the World Cup in three different decades and for most career titles at 118), is a certified bowling coach and USBC ambassador.

Last year, Nepomuceno registered a pair of runner-up finishes and came in third at the Kingdom Open in Saudi Arabia. He placed second at the PBAP International Classic in Manila, losing to a Malaysian. “Overall, it wasn’t a bad year, considering I had my hands full conducting coaching certification seminars,” he said. “It was unanimously conceded that hands down, I was USBC’s busiest coach last year.”

Shooting for another world title at this point in his career is a huge adrenalin boost but Nepomuceno said, “I won’t kill myself for it.”

“I have reached a stage in my life where I have decided to just enjoy what I do best and let God’s will be done in whatever happens,” he noted. “I want to spend more time with my family. I think since my duties now are divided between enjoying being an athlete and also being a coach, I got even busier than ever.”

But Nepomuceno said he will continue to compete because of the passion and love for what he does.

“What keeps me going is that I know I am in good shape because of my year-round physical regimen of going to the gym three to four times a week first thing in the morning for an hour,” he went on.

“The days I don’t go to the gym, I am either swimming laps for 45 minutes or cycling for an hour to build stamina. If the weather is bad, I still do my cardio by cycling stationary. I can say that if other athletes have off-seasons, I don’t. As long as I feel I am competitive, I will continue competing. I want to see how far I can go.”

Nepomuceno said he still consults his father and coach Angel, now 81, although they don’t see each other at the lanes anymore.

“My father had a hip replacement last year and isn’t as active as he used to be,” said Nepomuceno. “He used to join me for practice thrice a week but due to limited mobility, he can only walk a few steps everyday so he had to stop coaching me for the time being. My mother (former Miss Philippines Teresita “Baby” Villa-Real) has been busy taking care of him.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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