HANOI – Team Philippines picked up gold medals in billiards, athletics, muay and taekwondo on a relatively slow day that saw the reigning overall champion slip to third in the official medal standings of the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
The four gold medals came after the Filipinos rode on the shoulders of world-class gymnast Caloy Yulo to win a total of 10 gold medals last Monday.
As of presstime, Team Philippines has 34 gold, 36 silver and 45 bronze medals in the bank. Host Vietnam was miles and miles away with 93 gold medals to go with 60 silvers and 60 bronzes.
Thailand dislodged the Philippines in second with its 37-38-61. But if the Filipinos can keep pace with the Thais until the end, then the 2019 hosts and overall champions may land in the podium.
As it is, it’s the most Team Philippines can hope for.
Rubilen Amit won the day’s first gold for Team Philippines, followed later on by Islay Bomogao and Richein Yosorez in muay, Eric Cray in athletics and Kurt Barbosa in taekwondo, when she ruled the women’s 9-ball singles at the Ha Dong District Sporting Hall.
It was the first gold for the billiards and snooker team bannered by the 67-year-old Efren “Bata” Reyes, an icon in the sport.
Amit raced to an early 3-0 lead against Singapore’s Jessica Chan, who gamely fought but a handful of times created problems for herself. The lead was cut to 3-2 before the Filipina won the last four racks.
It was the ninth SEA Games gold for Amit, who came in an all-black outfit with a pink bow tie. She also won the 9-ball gold in 2005 and 2009 then shifted to 10-ball where she became world champion in 2009 and 2013.
“Alam ko naman na laban talaga ito. Hindi naman ibibigay sa akin. Hindi naman siya nag-give up. Laban talaga. Expected ko naman yung dikitan pero mabuti na lang hindi umabot doon,” she said.
Amit did not have any magical shots that made Reyes a household name but did enough to win the gold. She said almost losing the lead made her heartbeat faster.
“Medyo yung puso natin ang bilis na ng tibok,” said Amit.
The Philippine billiards team is looking at a couple more gold medals in men’s 9-ball, where an all-Filipino final between Carlo Biado and Johann Chua will be played today, and in women’s 10-ball through Chezka Centeno.
Reyes is the sentimental favorite to win in 1-cushion carom.
muay bets hit paydirt
At the Vinh Phuc Sporting Hall, Bomogay and Yosorez reigned supreme in women’s wai kru with a score of 8.68.
Then at the My Dinh National Stadium, the 33-year-old Cray ruled the 400m hurdles where he remained king in this part of the world.
Cray bagged his fifth gold in the event following similar wins in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. He also had golds in the men’s century dash in 2015 and the 4x100m hurdles in 2019.
The 2016 Rio Olympics veteran kept flashing the No. 5 sign in ruling the event where he was once again expected to dominate.
Then Barbosa, a Tokyo Olympian, provided more good news by beating Thailand’s Panachai Jaijulla in taekwondo’s -54kg kyorugi, 16-7.
Winning silver medals on the humid day were the women’s fencing team (foil) of Sam Catantan, Wilhelmina Lozada, Justine Gail Tino and Maxine Esteban; and Sarah Dequinan in women’s heptathlon with 5,381 points.
Securing bronze medals were Jelly Paragile in the women’s 100m hurdles; Joida Gagnao in women’s 5000 (17:36); Jericho Rivera in mountain bike cross country event; and Robyn Brown in women’s 400m hurdles.
Roaring start for Eala
In tennis, second-seeded Alex Eala opened her singles campaign with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Phonphatehep Philayong of Laos while teammate Janaila Rose Prulla advanced to the quarterfinals with a walkover win over Malayack Pathummakuronen of Laos.
Eala, 16, will next face Singapore’s Lynelle En Tong Lim while Prulla meets top seed Chanelle Vang Nguyen of host Vietnam.
In men’s doubles, defending champions Francis Casey Alcantara and Jeson Patrombon whipped Cambodia’s Matthew David Krusling and Samneang Long, 6-1, 6-1.
In women’s football, it will be an exciting semifinal duel between the Filipinas and Thailand.
And in golf, the Thais continued to lord it over as Natthakritta Vongtaveelap outsteadied 2018 Asian Games gold medalist Lois Kay Go in a playoff, dashing the Philippines golden hopes in the team match play event.
Rian Malixi earlier bowed to Vongtaveelap, 2-and-1, as the Filipinas dropped to a bronze-medal match with No. 2 Singapore, which lost, 0-2, to Malaysia.
The setback thus dropped the fourth-seeded Phl to a bronze medal duel with No. 2 Singapore, which yielded a 0-2 defeat to third ranked Malaysia in the other semis clash.
Pugs assured of bronzes
In boxing, a sport so dear to Filipinos, James Palicte (63kg) defeated Vietnam’s Vu Thanh Dat in the preliminaries last Monday, and advanced against Cambodia’s Touch David in a quarterfinals bout scheduled late last night.
Rogen Ladon (57kg) was also scheduled to climb the ring against Malaysia’s Muhammad Abdul Qaiyum Bin Ariffin in the quarterfinals.
Ian Clark Bautista (57kg) defeated Singapore’s Mohammed Hanurdeen Bn Hamid and advanced to the semis against another Cambodian in Sao Rangsey on Friday.
Middleweight Eumir Felix Marcial, bronze medalist in the Tokyo Olympics, drew a bye and will face Thailand’s Peerapat Yeasungnoen in the semifinals on Thursday, also assured of a bronze.
Nesthy Petecio (60kg), the silver medalist in Tokyo, collides with Myanmar’s Kay Thwe Nyein in the quarterfinals today.
Josie Gabuco (48kg), Irish Magno (51kg) and Riza Pasuit (57kg) will not see action until tomorrow.
Fernandez: Philippines on track
Halfway through the Games, chef de mission Ramon Fernandez was guardedly optimistic that if the trend continues, the county would hit its goal of finishing third overall in the medal standings.
“We are halfway through the Games, and we are in the top three of the medal standings, thank God. We are well within our target of finishing at least third overall. We just have to maintain our performance until the end,” Fernandez said.
“We still have several sports where our athletes can win medals, and hopefully they can deliver,” he added.
Despite limited resources and training that was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic back home, the Filipino campaigners were putting up a gallant stand, delivering their biggest haul thus far the other day of 10 gold medals.
Dancesports and gymnastics accounted for more than half of the outputs Monday with four and three mints, respectively, with the pair of Jean Mischa Aranar and Ana Nualla completing a golden treble in tango, Viennese waltz, and all final dance standards at the Long Bien Gymnasium .
World champion Carlos Edriel Yulo, on the other hand, emerged as the country’s top individual athlete in adding the men’s vault and high bar mints to his bulging collection plus a silver in parallel bars at the Quan Ngua Sports Palace.
Among those who shared the spotlight were swimmer Chloe Isleta and bowler Merwin Tan, who produced the first golds for their respective disciplines in the 200-meter women’s backstroke and men’s singles events, respectively.
“We still have several sports where our athletes can win medals, and hopefully they can deliver.” said Fernandez, who is also a commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission.