With just a few hours to the formal opening of the 28th Southeast Asian Games, Team Philippines notched four medals in the two days leading up to the inauguration. With the team sports struggling, the individual athletes stepped up to usher in the delegation’s full blown campaign on Saturday, June 6.
Siklab exits SEAG winless
Over at the OCBC Arena Hall 1, the Philippine women’s netball team could not recover from the stinging losses and dropped the last two matches on their first-ever international competition. Siklab lost to Asian champions and hosts Singapore, 12-84, Wednesday, June 3. And in the following day, Brunei sealed their place in the semifinals with a 56-32 thrashing of the Nationals.
In Wednesday’s action, Singapore scored 21 goals in each of the quarters while limiting Philippines to single digits. The top favorites had a great night on offense with 82% shooting clip led by Charmaine Soh’s 22 points. On the other hand, Siklab struggled, netting just 42% of their attempts. Thea Cenarosa scored 7 points for the Nationals.
It was a different story in the next day’s first few quarters. The Philippines fought hard in the first quarter against Brunei as the period ended with both teams tied at 9-apiece. The Bruneians outscored Siklab in the second, 13-8, to lead by 5 at the half. With semis berth on the line, Brunei pummelled the Filipinas in the next two quarters, 34-15, ending the game with the win.
Siklab Pilipinas ended the competition winless but gained experience that they will take to their next one.
U23 loses second
In the Jalan Besar Stadium, the Philippine U23 men’s football team failed to follow up on their commendable showing in their opening as they lost their match, Wednesday, June 3, against Cambodia, 1-3.
The Young Azkals played sloppily in the first half allowing the Angkor Warriors to build up their attack and finish. Cambodia led 2-0 at the half courtesy of goals from captain Prak Mony Udom and playmaker Keo Seokpheng. At the second half, the Philippines played better and were finally able to get the ball in the midfield. The improved fluidity from the Nationals was rewarded with a goal from Paolo Salenga. The Cambodians, however, would not be denied with the victory as substitute Chan Vathanaka slotted the insurance goal off a defensive lapse from the Azkals’ Richard Talaroc. At the injury time, Filipino midfielder Arnel Amita was sent off for his second yellow card and will be missing the next match.
Cambodia takes on Indonesia on Saturday, June 6, while the Philippines battles with Myanmar sans Amita on Sunday, June 7. Both matches will be at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Synchro swimmers sink in Games return
The duo of Allyssa Salvador and Jemimah Tiambeng could not recover from their low technical score and finished last at the end of the duet event of synchronized swimming at the OCBC Aquatic Center.
The Philippine pair scored 54.2667 in the free routine preliminary, Wednesday, June 3, but dropped to 53.0333 in the finals the next day. Despite Singapore getting the top spot at the finals, Malaysia still got the gold in this event. The hosts settled for the silver, while Indonesia rounded up the podium.
It might be the end of synchronized swimming, but the aquatics campaign of Team Philippines will resume with swimming starting on Sunday, June 6. Water polo matches will start on June 10.
Gonzales pulled through for the Paddlers; delivers silver
At Day 3 of the table tennis competitions at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, woes continued for the Team Philippines as they suffered defeat after defeat. It was again the veteran Richard Gonzales who rescued the day after clinching a playoff berth.
After their rousing win in the mixed doubles Round of 16, young upstarts Sendrina Balatbat and Ryan Jacolo fought hard in the quarterfinals, but the experience duo of Singapore’s Yu Mengyu and Yang Zi was just too strong. The hosts won the match, 11-5 11-1 11-5, ending the road for the Philippines in this event.
Balatbat could not bounce back from this loss, as the Filipina dropped her third women’s singles match of the pool phase against Malaysian Lee Rou You in four sets, 4-11 11-6 6-11 3-11. UAAP MVP Ian Lariba also failed to notch a win. Thailand’s Sawettabut Suthasini edged Lariba 11-6 12-0 11-7. Jacolo suffered the same fate as doubles partner Balatbat in his men’s singles pool match. 2013 silver medallist Le Tien Dat of Vietnam overpowered the Filipino rookie, 11-7 11-3 11-8.
As the lone man standing for the whole table tennis contingent, veteran Gonzales took back the hands of time in his penultimate match of the pool to secure a semifinals berth. Gonzales took the first two sets easily, 11-3 11-6. Vietnamese Tran Tuan Quynh kept the third frame close; nonetheless, the Filipino pulled through with a 15-13 win.
The next day at the same venue, the team played inspired table tennis with all the singles entries except Gonzales making their last hurrah for their respective events. Balatbat started the day with a straight sets win against Sannivad Thippalak of Laos, 17-15 11-5 11-5. Lariba alos ended her Games defeating Indonesia’s Novita Oktariyani, 11-5 11-8 11-7. The winning streak was halted when Jacolo lost his final men’s singles assignment in a gruelling five-set match, 11-2 5-11 11-9 10-12 10-12.
In spite of having a sure semifinals berth, Gonzales still went all out in his last preliminary outing. The 44-year old dismantled Muhamad Muhamad of Malaysia, 11-2 11-4 11-3, to officially top his group and went on the medal rounds. In the semifinals, the Filipino took World top 150 player Zhe Yu Clarence Chew of Singapore to an ardous seven-set battle. Gonzales took the first set comfortably, 11-4, before Chew took the next three sets, 12-10 11-8 11-9. Digging deep, the 2013 bronze medallist swept the last thee frames, 11-9 11-4 12-10, to punch his ticket to the finals.
In the finals, it was an excellent battle between two experienced players in Gonzales and hometown bet Gao Ning. Gao took the first two sets, 11-6 11-9, but not without resistance from the Filipino. Gonzales took the third frame off the reigning SEA Games champion, 11-9. The Singaporean finished the match, taking the last two games, 11-8 11-3, to clinch the gold. Gonzales ended with the silver to close out the day for the paddlers.
Gonzales, Jacolo, and Rodel Valle will still battle at the men’s team event, June 6, Sunday. They are grouped with Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The top two teams in each group will proceed to the semifinals.
Fencers string up wins and medals
Back at the OCBC Arena, the Philippine fencing team started strong and finished stronger to walk away with the country’s first medals of the Games.
In the men’s individual epee, UAAP standouts Gian Franco Rodriguez and Noelito Jose performed well in the pools, enough for them to advance to the Round of 16. The journey for both epeeists ended shortly, however, after suffering losses. Rodriguez lost a close 13-15 bout to Indonesian Muhammad Haerullah, while Jose succumbed to Mun Hou Samson Lee of Singapore, 6-15. In the other men’s event for Wednesday, veteran sabreur Eric Brando received a bye to the quarterfinals.
However, the former UE stalwart lost this bout, 6-15, and failed to reach the next phase.
In the women’s individual foil, only Justine Gail Tinio moved on as Wilhelmina Lozada failed to win a single bout in the pools. Tinio sent herself to the quarterfinals with a tight 15-13 victory over Myanmar’s Kyaw may Tinzar. The UAAP MVP battled the odds in the next two stages as she upset two Vietnamese top seeds in succession. The Filipina kicked number 1 Do Tin Anh out of contention, 15-11. The 2014 Philippine National Games champion scored 11 points in the first period to put the bout out of reach. In the semifinals, Tinio also pulled away in the first frame and did not look back to secure her shot at the gold.
In the finals, the SEAG rookie felt nerves due to long layoff to this match. In the end, Wenying Wang of Singapore overpowered the young Tinio, 7-15, to get her country’s first individual gold ever in the sport. Tinio clinched the silver to get the Philippines’ first medal of the biennial meet.
Fueled by Tinio’s start, the fencers continued their good showing on Thursday. In the men’s individual foil, 2007 gold medallist Emerson Segui and two-time UAAP MVP Nathaniel Perez finished well after the pools to move on to direct elimination. Segui lost his Round of 16 match against Dennis Satriana of Indonesia, 13-15. Perez avenged this loss of Segui by edging Satriana with the same scoreline in the quarterfinals; and the UE standout moves to the semifinals. In the women’s sabre, Jylyn Nicanor’s campaign ended after losing to Thailand’s Ngernrungruangoj Pornsawan, 11-15.
Women’s epeeists Harlene Raguin and Hanniel Abella battled each other in the quarterfinals. In the end, it was the more senior Raguin who went to the next round, winning 15-12 over Abella. In the semifinals, the Philippine veteran pulled the rag off Rania Rahardja of Singapore, 15-10, to go for that gold. At the gold medal match, the long-time national campaigner led 5-3 after the first period. However, the Vietnamese opponent Tran Thi Len changed her gameplan to win, 11-7, and get her country another mint; whereby denying the Philippines its first gold before the Games formally open the morrow.
In separate interviews, Tinio and Raguin shared their frustration of not getting the gold. On her part, the foilist Tinio shared that her excitement and nervousness overwhelmed her in her bouts in the pools resulting to mixed results. However, the current UAAP women’s MVP restored her focus for the knockout bouts with the help of her coach. “Si coach kasi talagang mino-motivate niya ako; na lagi niya[ng] sinasabi, ‘Step by step, matatalo natin yan.’ Ta’s sinasabi niya na, ‘Puso; ‘wag kang bibitaw kaya mo yan.’” When asked about her reaction on his SEAG individual debut, “Masaya na malungkot po. Malungkot kasi nakakapaghinayang kasi isang opportunity na yun para maabot ko yung ginto. Masaya kasi nakuha ko silver tapos madami ako[ng] natutunan, pinagka loob sakin ‘to ng Panginoon.” The longtime national fencer, on the other hand, said she was confident that she will perform well in the Games because of his experience. Raguin expressed the disappointment that she and Abella battled each other in the quarterfinals, “Medyo nalungkot kasi ang aga namin magtapat. Usapan kasi namin sa finals kami magtatapat, pero ‘yon talaga naging destiny.” The former UST standout recalled what happened in the Finals. She told the author, “Nagchange kasi sya ng idea and actions, at hindi na ako nakapag-adjust agad.” In ending, both fencers vowed to bounce back in their respective team events. Raguin even stated that they are already planning for that event.
The action takes a backseat as the opening ceremony of the 28th SEA Games happen at the new Singapore National Stadium, 830 pm Philippine time, Friday, June 5. The organizers hope to outclass the 2008 Summer Olympics opener in Beijing, China, in a spectacle with 4000 performers.