Team Pilipinas is set to make waves and possibly bring home a considerable medal haul at the coming 44th Southeast Asian Age Group Swimming Championships (SEA AGE) this 17-19 December 2022 at the Bukit Jalil National Aquatic Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The premier regional age group swimming competition is one that many swimmers look forward to. This year’s delegation will feature 91 of the country’s most promising swimmers, making it the biggest lineup sent by the Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) to date. The record number was largely due to the Southeast Asian Swimming Federation (SEASF) agreeing to increase the number of entries per event to three swimmers, instead of the usual two, to give more opportunities to developmental swimmers in the region who have lacked high-level events to participate in due to the pandemic.
PSI welcomed this development and hopes that the increase in the number of delegates can translate to an increase in the medals they bring home. At the 43rd edition of the Championships in Cambodia back in 2019, the Philippines brought home eight gold medals, 13 silver medals, and nine bronze medals for a total of 30.
This year, spearheading the girls will be 16-year-old Jasmine Mojdeh. Despite this being her first time competing in SEA AGE, Mojdeh is no stranger to the international scene having bannered the Philippines at the 8th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships last September with a semifinal stint in the 100-meter butterfly.
“Yung goal ko po talaga is mag-gold sa 200 fly kasi malapit na ko dun sa QTA so I think kapag pinush ko yung sarili ko makukuha ko talaga yung gold. And also, gusto ko din mag best time sa lahat ng events ko,” Mojdeh said when asked what her goals in the competition are.
The boys, on the other hand, have much higher expectations. This year, four swimmers have established times that would surpass the “QTA” standard which represents the gold medal times of the previous editions of the SEA AGE. At the forefront are Joshua Ang and Jamesray Ajido. Ang, who will be participating in the Championships for the second time, confidently admits that he is ready and well-prepared for the upcoming competition.
“I just want to get the best times and win gold wherever I can win gold, and represent the Philippines to the best of my abilities. Being the last meet of the year, I just want to end it with a bang,” said Ang.
As for Ajido, the wonder kid has shown the most potential this year by breaking a handful of national records for his age group throughout the season. In Kuala Lumpur, his goal is not just to win golds for the country but break meet records. This bold claim is backed up by already establishing a time, although in an unofficial competition, that surpasses the Boys 13 & Under 50-meter Butterfly record of SEA AGE.
Swimming competitions for age groupers have been stagnant in the last couple of years due to the pandemic. Therefore, it is no surprise that most of the members of Team Philippines will be making their international debut in Malaysia. That being said, head coach Sherwyn Santiago, together with his coaching staff, has done his best in preparing the swimmers over the last few months to not only help each swimmer progress in their physical conditioning but also build chemistry and camaraderie within the team.
“In terms of how ready, I guess very excited naman sila lahat especially medyo matagal nawala ang SEA AGE lalo na yung mga seniors tsaka yung mga lalaban for their last year dito sa SEA AGE. Lagi nga naming sinasabi sa swimmers na no pressure, just enjoy. Ineexpect lang namin na do their best and magkaroon sila ng international experience para sa susunod na mga taon,” Santiago shared.
The swimmers also revealed that they resorted to other methods to further their training and prepare for SEA AGE. Gym workouts, stretching and yoga, strict diets, and mental mindset preparation were the common things that stood out among the swimmers.
Team captains Marco Daos and Mishka Sy, who are also experienced SEA AGE competitors, hope to set an example to their younger teammates and want to make sure that everyone enjoys their swims during the meet.
According to Sy, “I think this year is gonna be good. Every year the team has always been doing well in SEA AGE so I just have good expectations for them. Of course, there is a certain amount of pressure for everybody but just as long as they don’t let that pressure take over their head, like we make them feel too nervous about it, everybody should be fine.”
Team Manager Miguel Ibazeta says he has high hopes that the team will do well at the Championships.
“Expectation-wise, siyempre we want to win. Expectation is we get at least twelve gold medals. We want to exceed always kung ano yung previous medal count. And for the longest time lagi tayo natatalo ng Singapore, ng Vietnam, but I think this year, we have a really good shot at beating them and coming out on top in a few events. So expectation-wise, I’m expecting at least ten to twelve golds. Performance-wise, I think everyone’s gonna get their best times. Hopefully walang ma-DQ and hopefully walang injuries,” Ibazeta said.
Among the other players comprising the delegation are national age group record holder Alexander Eichler, UAAP 85 High School MVP Ivo Enot, UAAP 85 Jrs. Rookies of the Year Aishel Evangelista and Patricia Santor, Gian Santos, Ruben White, Rafael Isip, Heather White, Alexi Cabayaran, Liaa Amoguis, Ava Bautista, and Amina Bungubung.
The 44th SEA Age Group Swimming Championships will be hosted by Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil National Aquatic Stadium, Kuala Lumpur from 17-19 December 2022. Sessions begin at 08:30am every competition day.