A masterful conquest in men’s water polo set the tone for what could be a promising campaign of Team Philippines in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hostilities have yet to start, but the national water polo squad buckled down to work as it dominated Thailand, 9-7, in the event’s opening salvo Tuesday at the National Aquatic Center.
Grizzled veteran Teodoro Roy Canete played like a one-man wrecking crew as he scored six goals for the Philippines, which is looking for a major rebound after suffering four losses to bomb out of the medal podium in the previous edition of the biennial meet in Singapore.
Mico Anota, Alamara Mumar and Reynaldo Salonga chipped in one goal apiece while coming up with an airtight defense that left the Thais shaking their heads in frustration.
“Of course, I’m so happy. I didn’t expect that I will have this kind of performance,” said Canete, who was part of the squad that won a silver medal in the 2007 SEA Games in Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand.
The 36-year old Canete bared that he was supposed to retire, but his former teammate, now assistant coach Dale Evangelista, urged him to give the sport another try.
“They might scrap the water polo program if we will not win here in Malaysia,” said Canete, who was already working as a swimming instructor in Dubai when Evangelista gave him a call.
The Philippines plunges back to action Wednesday against the Malaysians.
Water polo is just one of the four events where local bets campaigned in the second day of battle.
National players in men’s and women’s football as well as netball also marched to battle in pursuit of victories that would boost the morale of Filipinos ahead of the formal opening ceremonies this Saturday at the sprawling Jalil Bukit National Stadium.
The men’s U22 football and women’s squads are still competing against Cambodia and Malaysia, respectively, as of press time while the netball squad is still clashing with Thailand in quest of its first-ever victory in this prestigious 11-nation conclave.
Meanwhile, the first four gold medals – two from archery and two from sepak takraw – will be at stake in the third day of action.
Armed with extensive international exposure and training in the United States, the national archers are keen on reversing their fortune after a forgettable performance in the Singapore biennial meet in 2015.
Head coach and former national team standout Clint Sayo said they trained for three weeks at the US National Archery in Salt Lake, Utah, on top of seeing action in some tournaments in California in a bid to avenge their bitter setback.