Shunned by basketball, Biboy Rivera tried bowling and became world champion

Gerry Plaza on Apr 17, 2015 10:00 PM
Shunned by basketball, Biboy Rivera turned to bowling
Caption: Engelberto “Biboy” Rivera (From Facebook)

For someone who did not make the cut to join a varsity team in a size and heft-focused sport like basketball, world champion bowler Engelberto “Biboy” Rivera has only one piece of advice.

“Don’t get discouraged. Try another sport,” Rivera said in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports.

Rivera was actually a top player for Don Bosco Makati’s grade school and high school varsity basketball teams since he was 7 years old, but when he entered college at the University of Santo Tomas, gaining a spot in the school’s UAAP men’s basketball team was literally a tall order. He never made it to the burly lineup of the UST Growling Tigers.

Shift to bowling

“This is when I decided to shift to a different sport na di kailangan maging matangkad o malaki to compete at a high level,” Rivera said.

And since he had exhibited a special hidden prowess in bowling, Rivera fully concentrated on developing his skills further. With the help of a high school friend’s father, who was a professional bowling coach, Rivera trained extensively.

“Then mabilis yung progress sa training,” Rivera noted. “In a span of two years, I was able to make the Youth team and then after one tournament, I was able to win a world championship representing the Philippines and then tuloy tuloy na po siya.”

Rivera uses his own style of play, which he describes as “new,” delineating from the classic, “old” style used by the legends.

“It’s actually more powerful than the old style, where your hook is mas malaki, and the revolutions ng bola mas maliit. I get more strikes, and achieve a higher strike percentage.”

Perfect games

Using this style, he said, led to his career 52 perfect 300 games, including the unforgettable sweep in the Master’s Final of the WTBA World Tenpin Bowling Championships in Incheon, South Korea, where he became the world champion in 2006.

He also won the men’s bowling singles gold in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2001 and in the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.

More than his skill is his proper physical and mental mindset that further prepares him for competition. 

“You have to be really determined,” Rivera said. “You have to set your goals and you must really be determined to achieve them no matter what.”

In addition, he said you must be “able to handle pressure. You have to realize that not everything will come your way. Actually, mas marami po yan na di ka nananalo. It’s how you take it and how you learn from it.

Challenges and sacrifices

This led to personal challenges and sacrifices that he had to overcome.

“Aside from being away from the family, yung pagsabay ng school at nung training, there were a lot of humbling experiences. So merong mga times na ang pagkatalo masakit, gusto mo nang tumigil. Siguro after thinking about it, by resting for a month or two, na realize ko na in order to achieve your goals, push, push push lang,” Rivera stressed

One other difficult challenge is the physical demands of the sport, which takes its toll on his health.

“Bowling is a year-round sport. Wala kaming off-season. So tournaments are all-year-round and sometimes we have to bowl three or four tournaments back-to-back. So most of tournaments last for more than a week, about seven to nine days and you get to bowl every day and there are days that you have to bowl 32 games. That will be from around 11am to 2am or 3am the next day and you have to get up again the following morning to bowl the same number of games.”

Nutritional supplements

This is an area where Rivera relies on nutritional supplements, such as taking USANA Essentials (multivitamins, chelated minerals and antioxidants) twice a day, and a daily sip of USANA’s Rev-3 energy booster to keep him in tip-top shape during training and competition.

“With USANA, I just see to it that I take Essentials in the morning and then during the afternoon, if I feel a bit lethargic, I just take Rev3 just to maintain the level of quality I want doon sa game ko. And then at night I take again another dose of Essentials, just to sleep and recover for the following day.”

Rivera is part of Team USANA Pilipinas, a group of top Pinoy athletes who take the supplements regularly. This includes Alyssa Valdez, Rachel Ann Daquis, and Neil Flores for volleyball, LA Tenorio and Peter June Simon for basketball, PJ Tierro, Tin Patrimonio and Mary Jane Capadocia for tennis, Rubilen “Bingkay” Amit for billiards, Chieffy Caligdong, Misagh Bahadoran, and Belay Fernando for football, Gaby dela Merced for car racing, Japoy Lizardo and Janice Lagman for taekwondo, Abe Avena for golf, Michelle Cojuangco-Barrera for equestrian, and Sid Isidro for dragon boat racing.

Target: World Cup

As the current leading male athlete in bowling, Rivera still aspires for the grand achievement of all bowlers: win the World Cup—the standard of legend and greatness in the sport, with such names as four-time holder Paeng Nepomuceno, Bong Coo, Lita Del Rosario and Christian Jan Suarez winning the honor for the Philippines.

And, he will have a very big chance of realizing this dream next year after he fully recovers from the meniscal tear he suffered in December last year while playing in a world tournament in Abu Dhabi.

“I actually already won most of the major tournaments, except the World Cup,” Rivera said.

Rivera’s best World Cup finish for the World Cup was landing third in 2010 in Toulouse, France behind the eventual champion Michael Schmidt.  He settled for fifth in last year’s World Cup in Wroclaw, Poland, which was won by American Chris Barnes.

Road to recovery

To prepare for the 2016 World Cup, it will take a long, arduous process for Rivera to recover after undergoing meniscectomy surgery in January.

“I have been doing rehab from January till now. Most likely, I won’t be able to make it to the Singapore SEA Games in June. As per therapist, I may start moving again next month so I don’t think that’s enough time for me to prepare,” Rivera said.

Rivera would have been a gold medal favorite in the Singapore SEA Games.

But if everything goes as planned, Rivera would be ready for international competition next year—starting the World Cup qualifiers in May. The actual 2016 World Cup is scheduled for November.

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