If the Philippines’ campaign in the 29th Southeast Asian Games is built around the 29 gold medals the Filipino athletes won the last time around two years ago, it looks like the 497-athlete the country is sending to Kuala Lumpur will be hard-pressed to meet the goal projected by their officials.
Chef de Mission and Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion expressed hopes even before the national contingent could board the plane to the Malaysian capital for a harvest of 50 gold medals which, she surmised would be able to catapult the country to a fifth place overall finish, a rank better than sixth the 2015 hopefuls brought home from Singapore.
Carrion’s projection looked modest compared to the 63 gold medals heads of the 37 national spots associations had predicted. Triathlon association president Tom Carrasco, chair of the join Philippine Olympic Committee-Philippine sports Commission task force had, to his estimates is more doable.
And it looks Carrasco has basis for believing so. First, the Malaysian SEA Games Organizing Committee saw it fit to scrap from the calendar the whole women’s division in boxing where four-time gold medallist Josie Gabuco would have to defend her 48-kilogram title.
Removed, too, from the calendar of events to be disputed are the men’s and women’s softball where the PH Blu Boys and Blu Girls have been undefeated each time the sport is played in the biennial aggrupation of 11 nations.
Rio de Janeiro Olympian silver medallist Hidilyn Diaz would have also taken KL by a storm, but weightlifting, like women’s boxing, isn’t also in the calendar. Moves toward bolstering the host country’s bid or the overall championship.
That, coupled with the fact that defending champions Caleb John Stuart (hammer throw in athletics), Junel Cantacio (men’s 60-kg in boxing), Christopher Ulboc Jr. (steeplechase in athletics) and tennister Treat Conrad Huey had begged off for separate reasons and chances, indeed, looks bleak for our athletes to improve performance on their predecessors’ 2015 showing.
This means Fil-American sprinter Eric Shawn Cray, the only two-gold medal winner in Singapore, must repeat and, if possible, add at least one more to his haul and raise athletics’ five-gold production.
It’s a must also for boxers Ian Clark Bautista, Mario Fernandez and Eumir Felix Marcial duplicate in KL and the boxing coaches to find ways to lessen the impact of Gabuco’s and Cantancio’s absence.
“It appears really we’re already beaten even before the Games get started. Eight gold medals ang nawala agad sa atin di pa man tayo nakalilipad,” Carrasco told this writer by way of allaying fears that the national delegation’s campaign is doomed. “We still have something like 19 gold medals though left and there’s a strong possibility what we lost will be replenished.”
The TRAP president was referring to his own triathletes Nikko Bryan Huelgas and Ma. Claire Adorna, who, according to him, are both unbeatable in their events; Samuel Thomas Morrison, Pauline Louise Lopez in taekwondo; Daniel Parantac in wushu;
Newly-crowned World Cup titlist Carlo Biado and Warren Kiamco, Chezka Centeno and Dennis Orcullo in billiards and snooker; Kyomi Watanabe in Judo; Elvie Baldivino in shooting; Reynald Capellan in gymnastics; Kaya Anise Ricnadson in athletics; Masella Salamat in cycling; and the three-man poomsae team of Dustin Jacob Mella, Raphael Mella and Rodolfo Reyes Jr. in taekwondo.
Keifer Ravena, Jeth Troy Rosario, Baser Amer, Almond Vosotros and Kevin Ferrer have retained their slots in the men’s champion basketball team and will now be teaming up with Earl Sclottie Thompson, Glenn Khobuntin, Norbert Torres, Rey Mark Belo Jiovani Jalalon and Rashiegh-Paolo Rivera.
Only four players remained in the all Fil-foreigner PH rugby seven squad – Justin Coveney, Christopher Hitch, Gareth Leslie Holgate and Vincent Francis Young – who will now be playing with new teammates Alexander Vincent Aronson, Andre Stephen Everingham, Jake Gerald Lett, Patrick Davide Louis Olivier, Benjamin Joshua Saunders, Matheo Donato Saunders, Oliver Joseph Saunders, Andrei Fitz Tiffboards, and Andrew James Wolff.