The Philippines failed to keep up with their rivals’ blistering pace to wallow in fifth place in the men’s 500-meter final of the 18th Asian Games dragon boat competition at the Jakabaring Canoeing and Rowing Regatta course in Palembang, Indonesia on Sunday.
Compounded by the fact they were competing on a boat that they only had nine days to familiarize themselves with, the Filipinos clocked two minutes and 16.51 seconds, nearly five seconds behind the victorious Chinese-Taipei that took the gold in 2:11.691.
China bagged the runner-up honors for the silver with 2:14.97, while host Indonesia, whose last-minute decision to switch boats continued to backfire, was relegated to the bronze with 2:15.727.
Notwithstanding the outcome, coach Lenlen Escollante said while holding back tears: “I am proud of these boys because they gave it all. Nakita ninyo naman patay kung patay. Iba talaga kung nagkataon pa kami ng matagal na magamay ‘yung bangka.”
Philippine Canoe Kayak and Dragon Boat Federation president Jonne Go pointed out that they got wind of the Indonesian’s ploy early this month and went to China to practice nine days with the same boats that are being used in this meet.
“Pero iba pa rin ‘yung matagal mo ng ginagamit yung bangka,” noted Go, adding that the Taiwanese had been tipped off about the hosts’ gambit ahead of the Philippine squad and were able to familiarize themselves with the craft.
Winners of the same event in the Asian championships in Dalin, China using a lighter boat last July, the Filipino campaigners showed a glimpse of their potential by surging in the last 100 meters of their semis heat to place a close second (2:17.541), a mere five-tenths of a second behind Thai topnotcher (2:17.315).
Unlike last Saturday, the Pinoy paddlers skipped the repechage and made it outright to the semis by placing second in their opening heat, clocking two minutes and 18.096 seconds behind the first-placed Chinese (2:17.40). The Burmese took third (2:18.16) to also advance to the semis.
Their women’s counterparts were not as fortunate, however, placing fourth in their initial heat (2:35.01). They were relegated to the repechage phase, then advanced to the semis in securing third place in the round (2:36.408). The Pinay bets finished fifth and last in their semis heat (2:38.41) and were eliminated.
The Philippines closes out its dragon boat campaign on Monday with the men’s squad competing in the 1,000-meter race.