tolengoy: How big the victory was it for So, FESSAP and the Filipino nation?
Let us count the ways.
First, So’s gold-medal triumph in chess ended the country’s long but mostly heart-breaking search for recognition in international sports.
It may not be the Olympic Games, but who cares?
If we can’t even now win a bronze medal in the Olympics, a gold in the Universiade is more than enough for a nation in search of something good to talk about since the salad days of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
It’s the Universiade, also known as the World University Games.
Why, even Olympic and world champions first saw action here. NBA legends Larry Bird and Michael Finley played for the United States team that bagged the gold medal in basketball before bringing their acts to the NBA.
Others great athletes, who are still young enough to make the age limit, are all here. The rest of talented student-athletes are also here in preparation for entering the big leagues.
It was precisely the reason why Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the ‘Father of the Modern Olympics’, brought up the idea of the Universiade to its own founding father, Jean Petitjenm of France .
Second, So’s breakthrough triumph over the rest of the world rewarded the country its first-ever gold medal in the 54-year history of the Universiade.
The gold by So was also a fitting follow-up to the silver medal won by Samuel Thomas Morrison of Far Eastern University in taekwondo in the Shenzhen Universiade.
Although he had won countless trophies and medals in his young and brilliant career, the Universiade gold medal is also something that So will always cherish since he did it purely for love of country and nothing else. No money but country’s pride and honor.
Now a sophomore student and chess scholar at Webster University under five-time women world champion Susan Polgar, So also earned the distinction of becoming only the second champion since chess was finally added to the Universiade in Shenzhen, China in 2011. He succeeded GM Li Chao, who led a Chinese sweep of the gold medals two years ago.
In Kazan, So brilliantly prevented another sweep by the strong Chinese delegation, which again bagged the golds in women and team events.
“I think we did very well in chess again with two golds. Unfortunately, we lost a third gold to your player (Wesley),” said former women’s world champion Xie Jun.
And as you all know by now, So’s victory was especially sweet since he did it by beating former world junior champion GM Zaven Andriasian of Armenia in a no-tomorrow game lovingly called ‘Armageddon’ in chess parlance.
The two players finished in a nine-way tie for first place with 6.5 points and finished tied again after, hold your breath, three tiebreaks, forcing officials to order the Armageddon.
And third, So’s triumph vindicated FESSAP and its officials -- David Ong (president), Alvin Tai Lian (chairman) and Graham Lim (secretary-general) -- and sponsors -- San Miguel Corp., Agri-Nurture Inc., Bestank, Healthy Options and Cobra Energy Drink.
FESSAP, which also privately-funded the country’s campaign in 2011 Shenzhen Universiade, had to overcome Olympic-like hurdles and pressures to finally be able to send a small team to Kazan.
Several top-notch athletes, who have committed to carry the country’s colors in Kazan, were suddenly banned by the UAAP to join the delegation.
A memo was even issued by host Adamson.
And hours before the Universiade opening, a three-man team from UAAP travelled all the way to Kazan to question the recognition given to FESSAP by the FISU.
“Why ban the athletes and deprieve them of this rare opportunity to compete in the Universiade, “said one foreign delegate, who attended the general assembly at the Korlston Hotel.
“It’s funny how sports works in your country,”he added even after the UAAP application was turned down.
But really, it’s not funny anymore how the country’s sports leaders are running the show for a long time now.
Maybe, a radical change is the only solution.