PHNOM PENH—Taekwondo went on a six-gold medal haul Saturday to fan hopes that the Philippines could still salvage at least a fifth-place finish in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.

Olympian Kurt Barbosa expectedly toppedmen’s under 54kg category and became a three-time Games champion at the expense of a Thai, leading a golden charge by three other Filipino taekwondo fighters – former Summer Universiade medalist Samuel Morrison, Arven Alcantara and Kirstie Mae Alora.

Morrison, who won a silver medal in the 2011 Universiade, topped the under 87kg class by beating his Indon opponent; Alcantara beat a Thai to rule the under 68kg category, and Alora dominated the women’s under 73kg division, adding to the two gold medals won by their poomsae teammates last Friday.

Taekwondo action continues Sunday and ends on Monday, with Pinoy fighters expected to come up with more victories.

The four taekwondo gold medals came after Ian Clark Bautista, one of four Pinoy boxing finalists who climbed the ring at the Chroy Changvar Center Hall G, dominated Indonesian Asri Udin in their men’s featherweight title bout.

The other gold for the day was delivered by the men’s doubles team of Rube Gonzales and Francis Casey Alcantara, who scored a 2-6, 7-5, 10-5 win over their Indonesian opponents.

Bautista, 28, who became a three-time SEA Games winner, dedicated his victory to Ed Picson, the former Association of Boxing Alliances president who died of liver cancer last April 19.

“This is for Ed Picson, this win is for sir Ed,” said Bautista, who scored a 5-0 unanimous decision win over Udin.

Olympians Rogen Ladon and Irish Magno, along with Riza Pasuit, failed in their bids to boxing golds, giving five other Pinoy pugs – Tokyo Olympics silver medalists Carlo Paalam (bantam) and Nesthy Petecio (featherweight), light heavyweight John Marvin, light welterweight Paul Julyfer Bascon and lightweight Norlan Petecio – the tough task of duplicating Bautista’s win.

Ladon lost to Tharanat Saengphet of Thailand in the battle for the flyweight crown; Magno failed to get back at Jutamas Jitpong of Thailand, who beat her in the round-of-16 in the Tokyo Games in 2021, and settled for the silver medal in the women’s flyweight finals; while Pasuit suffered the same fate in the women’s light welterweight class, losing to Vietnamese Thi Linh Ha. 

With the six triumphs, the Pinoy contingent, backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee, boosted its gold medal haul to 37, just three behind fifth-running Singapore, which added two fencing gold medals to its 38-total last Friday.

With Indonesia having won 56 gold medals so far at 9 p.m., good for fourth place overall, the Philippines was left hoping it could overtake Singapore for fifth place, a rung lower than its fourth-place finish last year in Vietnam where Pinoy athletes bagged 52 gold medals.

The last time the Philippines finished fifth in the biennial sportsfest was in 2009 when the games were first held in Laos, with Pinoy athletes bagging 38 gold, 35 silver and 51 bronze medals.

In the 2011 edition in Indonesia, the Philippines finished sixth with a harvest of 36-56-77 and did even worse in 2013 in Myanmar with a seventh-place finish on a measly 29-34-38 medal haul.

Sixth-place finishes also marked the country’s campaign in 2015 in Singapore (29-36-66) and 2017 in Malaysia (23-33-63) before Pinoy athletes bounced back strong with a haul of 149-117-119 in the 2019 games as the Philippines bagged the overall title for only the second time since 2005.

With the Pinoy gold medal machine perking up, arnis hopes to contribute more Sunday, with Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) chief and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri hoping the Filipino martial art can deliver at least half of the 12 gold medals to be disputed here.

“At least six golds,” said Zubiri, the world arnis champion in 1989. “I will be happy if we get at least six gold medals. The other Southeast Asian nations like Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar are progressing in our native sport.”

Pinoy arnis practitioners bagged 14 gold, four silver and two bronze medals in 20 events to help the country rule the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. But arnis was not played in Vietnam last year.

Billiards aces Carlo Biado and Johann Chua, champions in the Vietnam Games last year, joined the ranks of players who failed to give the Philippines a gold medal here as they settled for the bronze in the men’s 9-ball doubles.

Francisco dela Cruz contributed the other billiards medal, a bronze in the men’s carom, in the Philippine tally.

The women’s volleyball squad absorbed a 22-25, 9-25, 12-25 setback against Thailand in the semifinals and was relegated to the bronze medal play.

Teenager Angeline Colonia, at 16 considered the future of weightlifting, won a silver medal with a total lift of 148kg in the women’s 45kg event at the National Olympic Stadium. 

The reigning Asian youth champion, Colonia, who cried after finishing second among five competitors, is one of several lifters expected to take over when Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz retires. She turns 17 on May 17.

“She is so young and promising,” lifting coach Edmundo Cardano said. “And we believe that this is the start of the Philippine team’s solid campaign here in weightlifting.”

Also winning another lifting silver were Lovely Inan, who had a total lift of 178kg in the 49kg category, and John Febuar Ceniza.  

With Diaz opting to skip action here to concentrate on her bid for a Paris Olympics berth, Cardano said he expects reigning 71kg women’s champion Vanessa Sarno to reign supreme anew on Monday.

Another lifter expected to contend for a gold, Tokyo Olympian Erleen Ann Ando, will compete Sunday in the women’s 59 kg class.

Gilas Pilipinas bounced back from a surprise 68-79 defeat to Cambodia last Thursday by ripping Singapore 105-45 and clinched a semis seat opposite either Indonesia or Thailand.

Indonesia beat Gilas for the gold last year in Vietnam.

Gilas Pilipinas’ women’s team also got back on its feet after a stunning 68-89 beating from Indonesia last Friday by trouncing Vietnam 116-58 but the team’s chances of winning the gold hinge on the Indons losing to either Cambodia or Singapore.

Wins in both games will give the Indons the gold and deny Gilas women’s bid to give the Philippines a third straight title.

Image credits: Roy Domingo

Source link