By JONAS TERRADO
Gilas Pilipinas finally arrived in Belgrade, Serbia ahead of next week’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but not before encountering a scare during its layover in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said the team was forced to board another plane after the pilot decided to abort the take-off at the Istanbul Airport in the Turkish capital.
SBP’s special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said the Gilas contingent is doing fine after landing safely in Belgrade a few hours later.
“I was told that the pilot aborted its take-off a few seconds before wheels up and made an abrupt full stop,” Gregorio said. “(The) plane had to return to the terminal and passengers were asked to disembark.
“It was a scary moment for everyone on board, according to Ms. Yvette Ruiz (Gilas’ liaison officer). They had to board a different airplane. Thank God they landed safely in Serbia,” added Gregorio.
Gilas left the country Thursday night, June 24 via a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul where they took a connecting flight for Belgrade.
Coach Tab Baldwin’s squad will open its campaign in the Tokyo Olympic qualifier on July 1 Manila time against host Serbia before facing the Dominican Republic the following day.
A top two finish in Group A, which is a long shot considering the quality of its opponents, will send Gilas to the crossover semifinals of the Belgrade OQT.
The 12 players sent to Belgrade were Dwight Ramos, Ange Kouame, Kai Sotto, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Jordan Heading, Will Navarro, Justine Baltazar, Carl Tamayo, Isaac Go, Mike Nieto and Geo Chiu.