INCHEON. – Veterans Biboy Rivera and Liza del Rosario will go into action in the 17th Asian Games here armed with guarded optimism, aware they are ranged against a world-class field that can pounce on the slightest mistake.
The two arrived here early Saturday with 10 other bowlers and three coaches, along with the archery team, and looked forward to the two days of practice ahead of them before plunging into action on Tuesday.
Rivera, 40, who the World Championship in 2006 in Busan, is the country’s best hope for a medal but he tempered expectations, saying that at this level, “anything can happen.”
“Before coming here, we did all we could to be in top shape. But we are up against the best in the world. We are ready but in this sport, you never know. One slight mistake could cost you big,” said the right-hander, who recently earned the right to represent the country in the prestigious World Cup in Poland in November, along with Del Rosario.
He is competing in his fifth straight Asian Games and is the most experienced in the men’s bowling team that also features Frederick Ong, Bonshir Layoso, and Asian games rookies Elirico Hernandez, Jo Mar Jumapao, and Kenneth Chua.
Four years ago in the Guangzhou Asiad in China, he won a gold medal in the singles competition that went with the golden wins of bower Rey Saludar and cue artist Dennis Orcollo but repeating the feat, he stressed, won’t be easy.
“The rest of the competitors have stepped up since then, being exposed to numerous world-class competition. And they also have the benefit of top coaches,” Rivera said, referring to rivals from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, and Middle East countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
He and Del Rosario, along with the other women bowlers—veteran Liza Clutario, Krizziah Tabora, Marian Posadas and rookies Ana Marie Kiac and Marie Alexis Sy—are being guided by local coaches Johnson Cheng and Jojo Canare and Japanese coach Madoka Amano, who has been Rivera’s personal coach way back.
“Realistically, we are gunning for one gold medal but we are hoping we could win more,” said Rivera, adding they will get the feel of the lanes at the Anyang Hogye Gymnasium on Sunday and Monday.
Del Rosario, 36, competing in her fourth Asiad, expressed the same sentiments, saying: “Mahirap magsabi, mahirap mag-expect. Advanced ang kalaban in terms of exposure, having competed in the US and European tours before coming here. But we will give it our best shot.
“Korea is always a good hunting ground for us, we always come up with good results here. But the level of competition is high and we can only hope we could live up to expectations.”
Aside from the singles, the bowlers are also seeing action in doubles, trios and the team of five, with the top 16 in the men’s and women’s action advancing to the Masters. In all, the event offers 10 gold medals, with Rivera and Del Rosario hoping they and their teammates could get a huge slice of the pie.
The partnerships in doubles and the team in trios will be determined by the coaches as the tournament progresses and Rivera is keeping his fingers crossed his teammates, especially the rookies, can be at par, if not better, than the rest of the competitors.
“We all have to be consistent, play at the same level every day. Nobody among us can afford to have a day-off, mahirap mang-hila ng kakampi at this level. If we manage to do that, our chances will be better,” said Rivera, who had a shot at the gold medal in singles action in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, needing a strike in his final attempt to win. But he erred, “na-canal,” he described it, and was relegated to fourth.
That error will always be on his mind as he plunges into action here, saying he will use it as an added motivation as he hunts for the gold.