Table Tennis’ Josephine Medina snared the Philippines’ 20th gold to complete a much-improved fifth place finish in the 9th ASEAN Para Games, that officially ended yesterday at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Medina, a 47-year-old 2016 Rio Paralympics bronze medalist, was all determination as she turned back a pesky Suwarti of Indonesia, 12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9, to claim the gold in the event she has lorded over since the second edition this same country hosted 14 years ago.
After the win, the Philippines has collected a total of 20 golds, 20 silvers, and 29 bronzes, which was good for fifth overall behind runaway champion Indonesia, who had a 126-75-50 (gold-silver-bronze) harvest; host Malaysia’s 90-85-84; Thailand’s 68-73-94; and Vietnam’s 40-61-60.
It was a significant improvement to the 16-17-26 haul and seventh place effort in the 2015 Singapore edition.
Athletics, drawing strength from three golds each by teenage sprint phenom Cielo Honasan and wheelchair-bound thrower Cendy Asusano, scooped up nine golds, five silvers and six bronzes, four more than their output in Singapore.
Chess, spearheaded by triple-gold medal winner FIDE Master Sander Severino, fell short of its seven-gold target but still wound up as the country’s second-best performing sport with a 4-3-6 haul. Swimming, behind Ernie Gawilan’s twin triumphs, had three golds, three silvers, and five bronzes.
Cyclist Arthus Bucay, tenpin bowler Christopher Yue, and Paralympian powerlifter Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta gave the Philippines a gold each from their respective events.
And Medina had no plans going home empty-handed.
Showing nerves of steel, Medina was a picture of calm as she bested a nervous Suwarti to carve out the four-set win.
Up two sets to one and at match point at 10-9, Medina uncorked a soft forehand that kissed the top of the net and landed on the board for the decisive point, after the lady umpire called it a point for the Philippine bet.
It was a call that Suwarti and her coach didn’t like, saying the ball had bounced on the table just once, not twice. But after some consultations with the scorer and a higher tournament official, the decision stuck.
Gold number 20, sealed and delivered.
“They (Suwarti and her coach) told me the call was wrong. But I told them it was not my fault and call, it was the umpire who made the decision and we should respect it,” said Medina in Filipino.
Medina will thus go home with two medals, including the team bronze alongside Minnie de Ramos in the higher S9-S10 class a couple of days back.
Earlier, Darwin Salvacion fell to Thai Wittaya Wichaiwattana, 5-11, 8-11, 5-11, and went home with a bronze.
Although the country was not able to meet its 27 gold medal target, chef de mission Ral Rosario said it was still a proud accomplishment.
“We went home with 20 golds, four more than what we took home in Singapore. And that’s all that matters,” said Rosario.
The Filipinos are scheduled to fly back home today with their focus now on the country’s hosting of the 10th ASEAN Para Games two years from now.
“We’re hosting the 10th ASEAN Para Games two years from now and we have to start preparation as soon as we get back,” said Michael Barredo, the newly elected president of the Philippine Paralympic Committee.