The 8th Asian Seniors Artistic Gymnastics Championships opening in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday will serve as a gauge of the Filipino campaigners against their regional rivals in the forthcoming 29th Malaysia Southeast Asian Games in August.
“Most of the rivals we will have in the SEA Games are also here so this will be a good yardstick for us against our opponents in Malaysia,” Gymnastics Association of the Philippines secretary general Bettina Pou said on Tuesday.
As the head of the national contingent, Pou arrived last Monday with the members of the women’s squad. They were joined late in the night by Texas-based Filipina-American gymnast Kaitlyn de Guzman and her mother Tami de Guzman, a former national gymnast and presently a women’s gymnastics judge.
Pou noted that besides host Thailand and the Philippines, also competing are Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Singapore sent only a junior squad to 14th Asian Junior Gymnastics Championships set to begin on Wednesday.
“We really want to measure ourselves against our Southeast Asian rivals in this tournament so this is a good test for us how far we have to go,” said national women’s coach Jasmin Ortega. “We are relatively a new team.”
Led by Singapore SEA Games veterans Cristina Onofre and Rachelle Arellano, the other team members are Erin Evangelista, Mariana Hermoso and De Guzman. All five of them are seeing action in the Asian championships for the first time supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
“Our main goal in the SEA Games is to improve on our bronze medal finish in the team event in Singapore and perhaps the silver won by Ava Verdeflor in Malaysia,” Ortega, herself a former national standout and SEAG gold medalist, said.
Considering the elite field bannered by powerhouses China, Japan and North and South Korea, any Pinay gymnast advancing to the individual apparatus finals – balance beam, uneven bars, vault and floor exercise – on Friday would already be an achievement, according to Ortega.
“But we will only be attempting once in the vault instead of the customary two tries so my athletes won’t qualify for the individual apparatus finals here,” the coach added.
Japanese coach Munehiro Kugiyama, who handles the men’s squad, echoed Ortega’s sentiments, hoping that any of his wards would make it to the individual apparatus finals, especially 2015 SEA Games gold medalist Reyland Capellan.
However, Capellan, who captured the floor exercise gold in Singapore two years ago, will only see action in the vault and floor exercise, leaving Jag Timbang and rookie Adrian Apuyan competing in all six events namely floor exercise, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings, vault and high bar.
Unavailable for this tournament was Fil-Am Tristan Lopez, who was sidelined by injury.
“If any one can make it to the Final 8 (of any apparatus) that will be good,” Kugiyama said.
The Filipinos open their campaign at the Nimibutr Gymnasium here on Wednesday through Japan-trained Carlos Yulo, who will see action in the 14th Asian Juniors Gymnastics Championships.
Yulo will be the country’s lone entry in the competition but is tipped by Kugiyama as a strong medal contender in all of the six events given his nearly yearlong intensive training at the Japan national gymnastics center in Tokyo.