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More of the good, less of the bad in 2021

ANOTHER year in the wonderful world of sports — 2020 — is almost over.

It would have been another blockbuster sporting year before the deadly coronavirus outbreak brought it to a grinding halt and forced a lock down on nearly all sports.

And like most of you, we’re now thinking about the many limitless possibilities for the new year.

If 2020 was a bad, coronavirus-interrupted sporting year, 2021 should be a lot better.

It’s the new year in sports, after all.

We sure like to see more triumphs than setbacks, more cheers than jeers. We’d like to see more of the good, less of the bad in 2021.

And while we’re thinking about it, here are a few things we’d like to see in sports in the coming year.

1.Winning the elusive gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics on July 23-Aug. 8, 2021.

Four Filipino athletes — gymnast Caloy Yulo, pole vaulter E.J. Obiena and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno — have so far earned the right to represent the country in the world’s biggest sporting event.

All four athletes are doing well, very well, in their training and preparations ever since the world’s biggest sporting spectacle was rudely pushed back to 2021.

There are several more equally-talented athletes, including 2016 Rio de Janeiro silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and Filipino-Japanese judo champion Kiyomi Watanabe, knocking on the door.

And if Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino are to be believed, the Tokyo Olympics could be the Filipinos’ brightest chance to win the priceless gold medal that has eluded the country since joining the prestigious competition in Paris in 1924.

A gold in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics? We can dream, can’t we?

2. Deja vu in the 2021 Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.

Three months before the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippines threw one big sporting party when it topped the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila last Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2019.

The Filipino athletes captured 149 golds, 117 silvers and 121 bronzes to emerge as the overall champion in the 11-nation biennial competition considered as the “Olympics of Southeast Asia.

The biggest challenge now lies in the 31st SEA Games to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam on Nov. 21-Dec.2, 2021.

Can the Filipinos do it again?

Early signs are not very encouraging, with several gold medal-rich martial arts events where the Filipinos excelled now being cancelled by the host nation.

But this is what sport is all about. You do your best even during the most difficult situations in front of the most hostile crowd.

Winning the SEA Games overall championship for the second straight time may be asking too much from our athletes and officials.

But a Top Three finish in the SEA Games in Hanoi 11 months from now is surely isn’t asking for the moon.

3.Return of world chess championship contender Wesley So.

Six years ago, So broke a lot of Filipino chess fans’ hearts when he decided to leave the country and bring his talents to the United States. And while he remains a Filipino by heart, as he himself admitted, the 27-year-old now carries the American flag every time and everywhere he plays chess.

It might be wishful thinking for now, but So’s family, friends and supporters all over the world still fervently pray that our once-shy but gifted Filipino hero will return home and represent the country in international competitions once again.

Personally, I can’t wait for the day to see him again, shake his hands and tell him, “Well done, Champ.

It will be like Kazan Universiade 2013 all over again for the two of us.

4. A much-needed victory for the Philippine Basketball Association-supported Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers 2021 in Clark, Pampanga on February.

There’s no doubt that basketball remains as the sport closest to the Filipinos’ heart — young and old.

Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio knows that convincing victories over South Korea on Feb. 18 and 22 and Indonesia on Feb. 21 inside the PBA-inspired Clark bubble would go a long way in the Filipinos’ main vision: the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Said Panlilio: “Our vision is 2023. But we want to use these events to develop young players and bring in the veterans and have games where they play together so we’d become a better team down the road.

Presently, the Kobe Paras-led Philippines holds the top spot in Group A, thanks to their sweep of Thailand in Manama, Bahrain.

But SBP isn’t taking any chances and plans to reinforce the team with several veteran players from the PBA.

It should be fun in February.

5. New sports heroes in billiards, bowling, boxing, chess, golf, shooting, swimming, tennis and track and field.

For decades, we’ve all heard a lot about the heroics of Efren “Bata” Reyes, Paeng Nepomuceno, Manny Pacquiao, Eugene Torre, Frankie Minoza, Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla, Eric Buhain, Cecil Mamiit and Lydia de Vega-Mercado.

Everybody loves a hero, but isn’t it about time that our sports leaders give us new heroes to cheer and love in the coming years.

The past three years saw the rise of weightlifting superstar Hidilyn Diaz, skateboard sensation Margielyn Didal, golf champion queen Yuka Saso, tennis wonder Alex Eala, karate kid Junna Tsukii and swimming idol Jasmine Mojdeh.

But we want more. We deserve more.

In 2021, we want to see more of the good, less of the bad.

NOTES — Happy birthday to my brother, Christopher N. Andaya, who will celebrate on Dec. 31.

For comments and suggestions, email to edandaya2003@ yahoo.com