• Filipina gymnasts yield to powerhouse rivals

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    Fil-Am Kaitlin de Guzman performs her routine in the uneven bars during the 7th Asian Seniors Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the Nimibutr Gymnasium in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Filipina campaigners bowed to superior opposition on Thursday, failing to advance beyond the women’s team and individual all-around qualifying round at the start of the 7th Asian Seniors Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the Nimibutr Gymnasium in Bangkok, Thailand.

    The Nationals were left reeling in the onslaught of powerhouses China, North Korea and Japan, which dominated the day’s events, underscoring their gap with the best in the continent and the work that needs to be done before the Malaysia Southeast Asian Games in August.

    For a while, their hopes were up when Filipina-American Kaitln de Guzman surprisingly topped the floor exercise with a score of 12.20 points after the first subdivision or bracket in the trip supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.

    In the end however, De Guzman, the daughter of former SEA Games gold medalist Cintamoni de Guzman, plunged deeper in the rankings and eventually fell by the wayside as the Chinese, North Koreans and Japanese took to the floor.

    Liu Tingting captured the individual all-around gold medal, anchoring the mighty Chinese to the team gold and a sweep of the tournament’s first two mints up for grabs.

    Only the top eight finishers, with a maximum of two gymnasts per country, in the all-around event will advance to the individual apparatus finals scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

    Apparently rattled in her first outing for the Philippines, De Guzman was uncharacteristically sloppy in her pet event, the uneven bars, garnering 11.45 points, far below the 14.20 points she scored in the Procter and Gamble National Championships in St. Louis, Missouri held in June last year.

    Her P&G tournament score was even better than Chinese individual all-around champion Liu’s top-scoring 13.45 points in the uneven bars here.

    The Fil-Am’s tally then was good for No. 11 overall among the 33 entries throughout the US in the competition meant for elite American gymnasts eyeing a spot on Team USA.

    Although holding dual citizenship, De Guzman has decided to compete for her mother’s home country in international competitions.

    The elder De Guzman won a gold medal on the same apparatus in the 1995 Southeast Asian Games held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

    “I would rather forget that score. It wasn’t me,” the younger De Guzman said, shrugging her shoulders when interviewed.

    Still, the national team rookie had the best score among the PH bets with a total tally of 45.60 points, counting her output in the vault and balance beam events, followed by Singapore SEA Games veteran Cristina Onofre (44.45) and Erin Evangelista (41.20).

    National coach Jasmin Ortega admitted that her wards still had much to work on in their bid to improve on their bronze-medal finish in the team in the Singapore SEA Games two years ago.

    “This is basically a new squad and we really wanted to measure ourselves against our Southeast Asian rivals,” Ortega said. “We need to make some adjustments but we still have enough time before Malaysia.”

    The Malaysians sent a warning signal to their regional rivals that they would be a force to reckon with on their home ground, finishing fourth overall in the team event with 142.750 points.

    Singapore SEAG double gold medalist Farah Ann Abdul Hadi ranked No. 12 overall while teammate Tan Ing Yueh, who took the uneven bars gold in 2015, ranked even higher at No. 12.

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