On eve of all-female PH parade, jiujitsu’s woman warrior gets sweet revenge on 2019 tormentor for first gold
Kaila Napolis waited for a long time to grapple with Jessa Khan again after an agonizing night back in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
“Getting back at her took a long time and I was really motivated to win,” said Napolis on Thursday.
A day before the Philippines makes history by marching only female athletes in the opening ceremonies of the 32nd SEA Games, it was a woman who delivered the country’s first gold.
And later in the day, another woman delivered the country’s second.
Napolis took the gold in the women’s “Ne-waza” 52-kilogram division of jiujitsu—and she redeemed herself after a painful loss four years ago, beating an athlete who is considered one of the world’s best in front of her supportive home fans.
And it was a fitting revenge: Napolis lost to Khan in 2019, when Manila hosted the SEA Games.
“I can still remember that loss at home [in 2019]. To win against her (Khan) here in Cambodia is overwhelming,” said Napolis, teary-eyed for redeeming herself from that heart-breaker four years ago in the women’s 49-kg golden match.
“I promised myself that I will not let the opportunity pass once I get the chance,” said Napolis.
Later in the day, Angel Gwen Derla delivered a second gold medal for the Philippines in the women’s bamboo shield form of “kun bokator.”
The 19-year-old from Cabuyao, Laguna province, temporarily shifted from “pencak silat” and tried her hand in the Cambodian indigenous sport, seizing the win with 8.5 points to frustrate the host country’s bet at the Chroy Changvar Hall.
Cambodia’s Chanchhorvy Puth (8.47) settled for the silver after her nearly two-minute routine and Deslya Anggraini of Indonesia placed third (8.42) to reach the podium.
“I really wanted to represent our country by competing here in the SEA Games. Through sheer hard work, I was able to deliver despite the fact that I only trained for two months,” said Derla.
The Philippines will field an all-female cast of athletes for the opening parade, with Philippine Olympic Committee chief Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino reaching the decision as a way to honor the recent rise of the country’s sportswomen.
“This is a first time—a tribute to women athletes and to the gender equality program of the International Olympic Committee,” said Tolentino, who will be one of only two men who will join the parade besides chef de mission Chito Loyzaga.
And the early wins of the delegation validated Tolentino’s decision.
“One big congratulations for one of our female athletes breaking the ice for Team Philippines in these SEA Games,” he said.
The 22-year-old Napolis, from Muntinlupa City, swept Khan from underneath and transitioned to a dominant position that earned her two points near the end of their match.
Khan is the 2018 Asian Games champion in the 49 kg and recently claimed a bronze medal in the European Championship held in Paris, France.
The 21-year-old Cambodian-Mexican is a jiujitsu star in the global circuit, having won the light featherweight title in the prestigious International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Santa Cruz International Open two weeks ago.
“She’s (Khan) famous here and she’s one of the best in the world. It feels good to reverse my position [against her],” said Napoli.
Khan tried to avoid the sweep and went for the legs of Napolis with a knee bar, but the attack was too shallow, allowing the Filipino to get up and earn the two points.
Back in their 2019 faceoff, Khan won by an advantage point in front of a supportive Napolis crowd.
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