In the bag!

December 04, 2019
Carlos Yulo
Carlos Yulo of the Philippines competes in the men's gymnastics artistic pommel horse event at the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) in Manila on December 3, 2019. / AFP / TED ALJIBE

There’ll be no stopping Team Philippines from emerging overall champion, a runaway winner of the 30th Southeast Asian Games even if there are still a lot of battles to be fought, lot of gold medals to dispute.

Yes darling, you can bet your bottom peso on that.

Striking gold medals practically everywhere, the Philippine contingent stayed well in front in the medal standings after four days of  hostilities and threatened to post one of the most lopsided overall fights ever in the long, rich history of the sporting showpiece.

As of Wednesday, Team PH has amassed a total of 54 gold medals, well ahead of Vietnam which has only 23 and Indonesia which has 19 and is expected to pull away beyond reach when action in other sports where it’s traditionally strong like boxing, track and field, taekwondo, basketball and softball gets underway.

The talk in the neighborhood is that Team PH will easily break the 120-gold medal mark, which is enough  to give it the overall crown since the five countries below them in the scoreboard  are expected  to divide the remaining golds among them.

“Unless we go without a medal starting today and either Vietnam, Indonesia or Thailand wins the rest of the golds, I don’t think we will lose the title. Wala pa ang boxing at track and field or taekwondo,” said a high sports official who requested not to be named because he’s not authorized to speak for the local sports body.

“It’s going to be a runaway. Mas madali than in 2005 (when PH won the title for the first time),” the official added.

The Filipinos struck with a bagful of golds in the first three days of action as expensive training buildup ever taken by PH athletes ahead of the Games—more than P1 billion—started to bring good dividends and send high-ranking sports officials grinning from ear to ear.

Day 4 was no different as the host obstacle course team and a tearful weighlifter provided the victories as of presstime.

Kristel  Macrohon provided the country’s second gold in women’s weightlifting at the Ninoy Aquino stadium while the obstacle course bets topped four events in a show of force in the sport that’s making its debut in the Games.

Kevin Pascua and Rochelle Suarez won the individual 100-m x 10 obstacle in the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively, while the PH team ran away with the title in the mixed team assist 400-m meter x 12 obstacle and the mixed team relay 400-m x 12 obstacle.

Pascua topped the two heats with times of 30.99 seconds to beat Mohd Redha Rozlan of Malaysia and Suarez also won the two heats in the final with clockings of 47.02 and 46.70 to beat compatriot Milky Mae Tejares.

Kyle Redentor Antlin, Kaizen dela Serna, Manolito Divina and Deanne Nicole Moncada won the mixed team assist gold medal by also topping the two heats with times of 3 minutes, 49.37 seconds and 3:43.35.

The mixed  relay team of Diana Buhler, Jeffrey Reginio, Klymille Keilahj Rodriguez and Nathaniel Sanchez timed 2:00.92 and 1:59.56 to beat Malaysia for the gold.

Macrohon, 23, inspired by Olympian Hidilyn Diaz’s win last Monday, made a total lift of 216 kilos (93 kgs in the snatch and 123 kgs in the clean and jerk) to relegate favorite Thi Van Nguyen of Vietnam to the silver medal.

“I’m so overwhelmed. I didn’t expect this because the Vietnamese lifter is really the No. 1 in the division. I thought I could only win a silver. But Hidilyn inspired me to go for the gold,” said Macrohon.

The Filipino lifters finished third overall behind Vietnam and Indonesia with two gold, three silver and two bronze medals.

There was a sure gold even before action begins this morning in several venues across Luzon.

This after Asian Games champion Margielun Didal and Christiana Means disposed of their respective Indonesian rivals in the semifinals to arrange an all-Filipina duel for the gold in the skateboarding competitions at the Sigtuna Hall in Tagaytay City.

Didal, seeking a berth in the Tokyo Olympics next year,  beat Nyimas Cinta while Means outclassed Kyanda Susanto to advance to the game of S.K.A.T.E finals scheduled today.

On their way to the semis, Didal downed Shin Thant Dar of Myanmar in the preliminary round of the skateboard event while Means downed Abdullah Nur Farah of Malaysia .

The Blu Boys and the Blu Girls continued to feast on the poor opposition, but the bowling teams struggled for the second straight and missed landing a medal of any color.

The Blu Boys blasted Singapore, 8-0, to sweep the elimination round while the Blu Girls were as overpowering, blanking Thailand 11-0, to finish the elims in the women’s division unbeaten.

But this could not be said of the bowlers.

Medals continued to be very elusive for the Filipinos in this sport that produced the great Paeng Nepomuceno and Bong Coo as the team of Kenneth Chua and Patrick Nuqui wound up fifth in men’s doubles with a 2420 pinfalls in the six-game series.

Another PH tandem—Merwin Tan and Frederick Ong—placed ninth with 2384 in the event won by Indonesia.

There was little to smile about inside the iconic Rizal Memorial Coliseum where gymnastics is being held.

After winning two golds in the past few days, world champion Carlos Yulo was only good for the silver this time as he finished second in the men’s vault finals of the artistic gymnastics.

The young little boy from Leveriza Street, a short walk away from the place of his triumph early this week, wowed the crowd after posting a score of 14..700, much to the delight of the capacity crowd who was expecting another gold for their proud countryman.

Too bad, Prayoko Asgus of Indonesia dislodged him from the top when his turn came with 14.734 to capture the gold and send the Filipinos leaving the coliseum shaking their heads.

“Sayang. Akala ko kay Caloy na,” said Daniel Aguila.    

History is on the side of Team Philippines—seven of the last 11 SEA Games hosts have emerged No. 1, reflecting the tradition of changing the program of events to suit local strengths.

And the country is no exception. It put sports where it’s traditionally strong like  the indigenous sport of arnis and dancesport, which gave the host a whopping total of 14 and 10 golds, respectively, in this edition.

Not only that, the host also included sports mistaken for a street name. Kurash and jiu-jitsu are just two of them.

The  success follows a chaotic build-up when unfinished infrastructure, transport delays and problems with food and accommodation were heavily criticized, prompting an apology from Presidento Duterte.

However, the Philippines’ dominance has not gone without some criticism over alleged home bias.

In pencak silat, a Southeast Asian martial art, Filipino fighter Dines Dumaan was declared a 5-0 winner over defending champion Mohd Faizul Mohd Nasir — despite kicking the Malaysian in the head as he lay prone on the ground.

Faizul was taken to hospital and Malaysian fans reacted angrily on social media, using #SEAGamesfail, a hashtag which was used to mock the tournament’s turbulent build-up.

(With reports from AFP)