Reviving the glory days the Filipino gymnasts enjoyed in the Southeast Asian Games since the country first took part in the 1977 will be the target of this year’s gymnastics team in the 29th edition of the biennial conclave starting August 19-30 in Kuala Lumpur,
It was in the 10th Games in 1979 in Jakarta, the only second time the Philippines saw action in the then 10-nation meet among the best and finest athletes in the region that the Pinoy aces took gymnastics hostilities by storm with their artistry and versatility in all the events contested in the different apparatus.
Versatile Rolando Albuera shone the brightest among his peers displaying incomparable artistry that caught the judges, fellow contestants and spectator alike in crowning himself the men’ all-around performer.
The now United States-based Albuera topped the side horse, ring and parallel bar competition in dominating fashion to, likewise, power the Philippines to the overall team championship, combining talents with Luisito Hilario, Santiago Ty, Norman Henson, Antonio Valenzuela and Romulo Orate.
Albuera and Hilario returned two years later in Manila for the country’s first hosting of Southeast Asia’s athletic aggrupation with the former keeping his men’s individual and all-around titles. The latter succeeded Albuera as the parallel bar kingpin.
This year’s team is built around 2015 gold medallist Reynald Capellan, who is, again, expected to top the men’ floor exercises besides being groomed, too, to make a bid for another gold in the vault event.
The quartet Capellan, Jan Gwynn Timbang, Matthew Vergara and Fortunato Abad IV is also looking for the gold medal in team competition besides the possibility of digging up another gold in the individual vault and floor exercises.
The women’s trio of Katrina Evangelista, Cristina Onofre and Yana Hermosa, given th break, can also improve their team bronze medal finish to years ago in Singapore to at least a silver with Texas-trained Kaitlin de Guzman as an additional force.
Counting another U.S.-trained Tristan Lopez to beef up the team, don’t blame Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion, who is also the national delegation chef de mission, to hope for a better showing of her gymnasts.
Rhythmic gymnastics will be disputed for the first time in the Games but Ms. Carrion that the combination of talents in Jean Caluscusin, Al Melgar, Nicolle Medina, Katrina Loretizo, Dannah Sabio, Nichole Orella, Reyna Jean Cornel and Andrea Cantero are capable of doing the country proud like their artiwtic counterparts.
Carrion said Filipino gymnasts could be doing better than what she has projected had not the Malaysian Organizing Committee reduced the competitors age 18, to years that the Olympic rule of 16 to bolster the hosts’ overall championship campaign.
That made Filipino 17-year-old Caloy Yulo who would’ve been a shoo-in for the gold in at least one event. Carrion said the Philippines’ request to apply the Olympic rule was denied.