Team PH in respectable spot as medal-rich events up after SEA Games opening ceremonies
Off to a relatively promising start, Team Philippines settled comfortably behind host Cambodia as hostilities briefly paused Friday for the lavish opening ceremonies of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Jiu Jitsu fighter Kaila Napolis and Angel Gwen Derla of kun bokator delivered the first two gold medals for the country apart from a pair of silvers and three bronzes that likewise came from both sports a day before, good for second overall in the 11-nation medal tally.
But if you ask Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, the Philippines could have gotten more.
The all-female Philippine delegation for the opening ceremony, led by flag bearer Alyssa Valdez, march inside the Morodok Techo Stadium during the parade of nations. 🇵🇭 #SEAGames2023 📹 Cambodia Sports TV pic.twitter.com/6ixdqmvVjh
— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) May 5, 2023
“Of course, it was good momentum for us to get two gold medals (prior to the opening). It inspired the athletes despite the ridiculous subjective decision, especially in kun bokator,” said Tolentino.
He was referring to the performance of Alyssa Kylie Mallari, who finished second in the women’s bokator spirit form only to end up with the bronze medal around her neck.
Cambodia’s Leakena Mao, as expected, ruled the event with 8.75 points with Mallari closely behind with 8.33.
Myanmar’s Nilar Soe Oo placed third with 8.08, but her coach placed a protest that exchanged the medal rankings of Mallari and Mao.
Obstacle racers will give the Philippines two more gold medals when action goes full blast Saturday as the country takes part in 16 events.
Filipinos will finish 1-2 in the 100 meters with Mark Julius Rodelas and Kevin Pascua battling for the men’s title with Precious Cabuya and Kaizen dela Serna disputing the women’s gold as obstacle racing adds to the medal tally of the Philippines that stood at 2-2 -3 (gold-silver-bronze) before the opening.
Cambodia has a 5-4-0 tally.
The 35-year-old Rodelas erased his own world standard of 26.42 seconds, which was likewise the existing Guinness record, with a 25.09 effort in the preliminaries at Chroy Changvar Car Park. Pascua, the 2019 champ, forged the gold-medal encounter with a career effort of 26.18 seconds.
“My goal in this SEA Games is 24 seconds. I think I can do it,” Rodelas said. “I had several lapses in my last run. You might not have noticed them, but these small details cause the delay in my run.”
Among those doing battle Saturday are the country’s bets in athletics, swimming, 3×3 basketball, boxing, cycling, e-sports, artistic gymnastics, karate, vovinam, pencak silat, pétanque, sepak takraw, soft tennis, tennis, aquathlon, and the demonstration sport of teqball.
Christine Hallasgo also gets going, as she tries to reclaim the marathon gold she lost in Hanoi last year.
“I will do the best I can to reclaim the gold,” said Hallasgo, ready for the lung-busting morning grind set in Siem Reap where the majestic Angkor Wat serves as background along the 42-kilometer route.
Hallasgo aims to reclaim her crown against Indonesia’s Odekta Elvina Naibaho and 2021 Hanoi bronze medalist Ngoc Hoa Hoang Thi of Vietnam. She will get help from new teammate Ruffa Sorongon.
“We checked out the course. I hope it won’t be as hot as they have predicted,” said the 30-year-old Hallasgo, the pride of Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
The heat index is tipped to rise to at least 39 degrees Celsius, with Richard Salano and Arlan Arbois aiming to upstage defending men’s marathon champion Hoang Nguyen Thanh of Vietnam in the event considered wide open with the absence of fancied Thai Tony Ah-Thit Payne .
“It was sad news. Our supposed silver was relegated to bronze because of that protest. I didn’t agree to that, but what can I do? We learned that the coach of Myanmar is Cambodian,” said Tolentino.
An indigenous combat sport in Cambodia, bokator is hand-to-hand combat that uses a diverse array of elbow and knee strikes, shin kicks, submissions and ground fighting.
“Artistic form is not combat form to have video replays all over. So, if artistic form can be protested, we could have filed a protest for their gold, but we didn’t do it in respect for the host country,” said Tolentino.
“We might be expecting a lot of that this season, so we must prepare for that,” added the POC chief.
Cambodia has restricted the number of events for both male and female athletes from other countries across all sports, giving the host country the edge since they can field the maximum number of athletes allowed.
Cambodians bagged five gold medals and four silvers on Thursday built around their performances in kun bokator and jiu-jitsu to gain headway in the standing prior to the opening rites. Running third is Thailand with a lone gold plus one silver and a bronze.
But Napolis stunned the hosts when the 25-year-old from Laguna topped Cambodian-Mexican Jessa Khan, a local hero and a global name in jiujitsu, in the women’s 52-kilogram finale.
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