One-armed wonder

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Saturday, August 23, 2014


NO ONE was getting attention at the Citigreen Tennis Resorts more than John Paul Belikaol of Argao.

Not only was he dominating his matches but he did so with just one arm.

Belikaol was born with no right arm but this did not stop him from routing Patt Joaquine Mejia of Biliran, 6-2, 6-4, to cruise to the quarterfinal round of the Boys 14-Under division of the 19th JRG Gullas Cup.

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Belikaol used to just watch matches and the closest he could get to tennis action was when he sidelined as a ball boy at the Alta Argao Lawn Tennis Association.

That was until three years ago when he finally started playing in tournaments when couple Gina and Randy Villaflor saw his potential and encouraged him to develop his interest.

Starting out was not easy for Belikaol. In most competitions he joined, he always got eliminated in the first round. This did not discourage him and he just kept playing until he finally reached the quarterfinal round. This is his second time to reach the Round of 8. The first time was in a Head Penn tournament in Dumaguete.

Belikaol, 14, of Argao National High School, started slow as he encountered difficulty with Mejia’s strong returns. He was able to adjust and eventually won the match.

“During the match, I never surrendered because I was confident that I will win the match,” said Belikaol.

Service is a major factor in a tennis match. What Belikaol does is hold both the racket and tennis ball with his left hand, tosses the ball before smashing it.

Belikaol hopes to finally reach the finals and win his first title. He is, however set to play seed No. 1 Janus Ringia of Koronadal, who easily won against Venz Alforque, 6-0, 6-0, yesterday.

“My handicap never discouraged me to play the sport,” said Belikaol, who is the youngest son of Santos and Jeanette, whose source of livelihood is farming and trading coconuts and bananas in Carbon market.

It was only three years ago that he finally started playing in tournaments. The Villaflors, who returned to Argao after nine years in the US, discovered his potential and encouraged him to develop his interest in tennis.

“We saw his interest and his talent, that’s why we started to support him and give him the opportunity to compete,” said Gina, who saw Belikaol play in Argao when she and her husband came home to Argao for a vacation.

Belikaol idolizes Rafael Nadal and also hopes that he can represent the country in tournaments abroad.

The other quarterfinalist in the boys 14-Under are No. 6 player Heart Sotto, who beat Gabriel Andre Trazo, 7-5, 6-0; Francis Hidalgo, who defeated Lorenz Anthony Celis, 6-1, 6-0; Bernie Blyre Buanghug, who survived Raphael Mercado, 6-2, 6-7, 10-1; No. 3 Kurt Angelo Molina, who edged Joshua Ramon Torres, 4-6, 6-4, 10-7; and Marc Nicole Suson, who defeated Earl Cullin Maxilom, 6-1, 6-1.In the boys 16-Under quarterfinals, Marc Pradel will face No.5 Gener Francis Lambayan, who won over Jermaine Laurel, 7-5, 4-6, 10-3. Dharyl Alcordo defeated Cesar Keith Laborte, 6-1, 6-3, to No. 4 Arthur Craig Pantino, who routed Jwel Grospe, 6-0, 6-0. Mark Dennis Ramero defeated Derek Tabo-Tabo, 6-3, 7-6, 11-9, to arrange a quarterfinal showdown with John Clyde Laquio. Christopher Encarnacion won against Norman Joseph Enriquez, 6-1, 6-2 to face Janus Ringia in the next round. ISL

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2014.

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