SEA Games 2023: Veteran wrestler Maria Vergara comes out of retirement to win gold
PHNOM PENH—Removed from active grappling for a long time, Maria Cristina Vergara returned to the mat on Monday and rewarded the Philippines and herself with a shiny gold medal at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
Vergara brought down Cambodia’s Sambat Vannak by superiority in the women’s 65kg in freestyle wrestling for the country’s second gold in the sport following Jason Balabal’s victory in the men’s Greco Roman 87kg on Sunday.
Summoning her old form, Vergara took down the Cambodian grappler several times for a 12-2 win amid fighting in hostile territory.
“Competing here in the SEA Games is a big sacrifice for me,” said Vergara, who is now part of the national team coaching staff and a last-minute replacement for an injured Filipino entry.
One of the finest grapplers Team Philippines ever produced, Vergara was a two-time SEA Games gold medalist during her prime, winning her weight class in the 2003 Vietnam and 2005 Manila editions of the 11-nation meet.
She retired right after the 2007 Games in Thailand before joining the national team coaching staff several years later.
“I stopped playing and was gone for more than 10 years, but I was able to execute the techniques that I used before,” added Vergara, who defeated Sopha Thammavong of Laos by superiority in the semifinals.
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