On Yuka’s victory and the sad tale of athletes abandoning the country

by Dennis U. Eroa

The news of Yuka Saso winning the US Open for the second time was heard around the sporting world. I must confess that I’m one of those who slept smiling, knowing that Yuka’s victory proved to all that the Philippines is a breeding ground for world-class athletes.

Yes, I’m happy that Yuka won, but sorry to say, I am not ecstatic. That’s the plain truth.

Yuka, who polished her game in our motherland and winner of the 2021 US Open edition waving the Filipino flag, became richer by $2.4 million (roughly P139,000,000) after topping this year’s edition at the Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania).

Yuka Saso [photo credit: LPGA.com]
Yuka Saso [photo credit: LPGA.com]

That’s a large sum of money and there’s no doubt that Yuka, born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan to a Filipina and Japanese father, has already left an imprint in the unpredictable sport of golf.

My happiness, however, is short-lived, and very much different when Manny Pacquiao was still terrorizing his opponent with his machine gun punches. Pacquiao’s achievement as a boxer (not as a politician) remains in the hearts and minds of Filipinos.

I am captivated by Yuka’s triumph but it’s a different feeling if she’s carrying the Philippine flag.

Don’t accuse me of being a sour grape. When Yuka, a gold medalist during the 2018 Asian Games, opted to turn Japanese when she turned 22, I defended her from bashers. She carried the Philippine flag in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I’m sure her father knows best.

I just can’t stomach the fact that the main reason for changing her nationality is having a Japanese passport creates more opportunities than having a Philippine passport.

If I have the power of putting Yuka’s crowning glory, then I’ll not make it the main story. I’ll still use it but not the headline. I’ll find other stories of triumph by athletes carrying the Philippine flag.

Ask pole vaulter EJ Obiena and Caloy Yulo, the gritty Pinoy boxers and lifters, who will try their luck in the Paris Games.

Wesley So and Jaja Santiago

Yuka’s situation mirrors the cases of chess wizard Wesley So and volleyball star Jaja Santiago.

Captivated by the beauty, shall I say money, of Japan Jaja is no longer competing for the Philippines. Married to a Japanese coach after a not-so-secret longtime relationship with a fellow player, Jaja’s presence could have added height and threat to gallant Alas Pilipinas.

Well, Jaja’s heart remains ( very good PR for bloggers) for the Philippines. She supported Alas wearing a jacket with the name Philippines at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex cheered lustily for every point, and became a hobnobber for the nationals.

There is a possibility that Jaja will play for the world-class Japanese national team. I’ll describe it as a nightmarish.

Why turn Japanese? Isn’t it enough that you’re earning tons of money as an import in Japan’s V League? Wearing that jacket isn’t going to impress me. To the wise, that’s plain sugar-coating.

Of all those with new nationalities, I can only sympathize with fencer Maxine Esteban, who will carry the Ivory Coast banner in Paris. Fed up with the lack of support from her association, Esteban sought the comfort of the Ivory Coast, which gladly sheltered her.

But I continue to digest the move. Samantha Catantan, the pride of the multi-titled UE fencing team, didn’t abandon the Philippines and was rewarded with a seat in Paris.

Thank you, Sam!

The curious case of So is different. With the lack of corporate supporters, So didn’t hesitate to accept an offer to become a US citizen. The tiny flag of the Stars and Stripes is displayed whenever So, a Caviteno, is competing in major chess tournaments including the Olympiad.

So and Jaja are certainly now rich sports figures with their earnings. But they are not well-loved for changing their citizenship.

PBA Commisioner Willie Marcial speaking at the 2024 PBA PH Cup Final press conference. [PBA Images}
PBA Commisioner Willie Marcial speaking at the 2024 PBA PH Cup Final press conference. [PBA Images}


Despite criticisms from netizens and haters, I believe that the PBA remains the top sporting show in the country. Under Commissioner Willie Marcial, the PBA solidifies its position as Number 1. Don’t believe the bashers, most of them have little minds.

Supported by the PBA Board of Governors, Marcial is making innovations to make the league closer to the fans. For one, the out-of-town games were wonderful.

The board recently approved the scrapping of the height limit of imports for the Commissioner’s Cup. Expect seven-footers to see action.

Next season, the Governors’ Cup will also be the 6 foot 6 height limit for reinforcements.

By gate crashing the predicted San Miguel Beer and Bgy. Ginebra Philippine Cup party, Meralco (part of the MVP group) just proved that the league isn’t mediocre.

By the way, the Bolts powered by the backcourt duo of Chris Newsome and Chris Banchero, the sniping of Allein Maliksi and Bong Quinto, and the perimeter shooting of Raymond Almazan shocked the Beermen in Game1 of the best-of-seven title, 93-86. Judging by the paying crowd and the intensity of the game, the series is going to be very interesting and full of surprises.

There’s so much in store for the fans. Regardless of the result, the series is a blockbuster because San Miguel Beer is determined to show who is the boss against a worthy foe capable of creating special, unforgettable moments.

Dennis Eroa

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