source: Gerry Carpio | philstar.com
The last remnants of Team Philippines broke camp in Jakarta, Java and this city yesterday and flew back to Manila, some proud winners once more, others pulling off some of the big surprises for a contingent relegated for the second time to its worst disaster since 1977.
The 750-plus strong contingent accounted for 36 gold medals, two short of the 38-gold medal haul in 2009.
The winners were led by long jumper Marestella Torres, the only athlete to break both the Philippine and Southeast Asian Games record, double-gold medalist Iris Ranola in the pool events of 8-Ball and 9-Ball, and the men’s basketball team, which continued a long reign interrupted only in 1989 and 2005.
Torres went for the record on her third attempt, jumping to a new SEAG mark of 6.71 meters which could have won her the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games.
Ranola became the Filipinos’ winningest gold medalist as she toppled former pool double gold medalist Rubilen Amit, signaling a changing of the guard that could boil over to the money games of the world championships. World No. 1 Dennis Orcollo hardly felt the pressure in winning the 8-ball pool event.
The men’s basketball team did not leave anything to chance, pulverizing every conceivable obstacle, inconsequential as it might seem, with the highest possible margins of 20 or more to win the gold beyond reasonable doubt.
There were many comeback victories.
The world-class poomsae team of Rani Ann Ortega, Francesca Camille Alarilla and Ma. Clara Janice Lagman retained their crown in Laos. Boxers Alice Kate Aparri and Josie Gabuco remained the queens in their divisions while Rene Herrera came back to install himself anew as 3,000m steeplechase titleholder.
Alfie Catalan, winner in 2005 and 2007, was denied participation in 2009 when he was not issued a UCI license, put his title retention drive on hold for four years. When he finally came back, he won it in style to drive home the point that the Philippines could have surged to fifth place in 2009 if he and his teammates had been allowed to compete. The Philippines finished the 2009 SEA Games one gold behind Malaysia.
Wushu’s Mark Eddiva and Edward Folayang ventured and won in the deadly combat of the Ultimate Fighting Challenge the last four years and clobbered their opponents without fear, without mercy to retain their seats at the top.
Margarito Angana, the youngest and bravest in a family of wrestlers, stayed as 55kg champion in the Greco-Roman event.
With John Baylon beaten, by a participant half his age, for the first time in 17 straight successful stints, Nancy Quillotes saved the day with the only gold in judo. Defending champion Walbert Mendoza also made a successful defense for the only gold in fencing.
The men’s softball and baseball teams also bagged three golds with little opposition despite the lack of preparation, support and motivation from warring sports leaders. Wesley So, one of the world’s top 60, proclaimed himself champion in the new blitz event, a five-minute clash on the 64-square board.
New stars also came fourth to save Team Philippines and provide the sparkle that somehow inspired the golden efforts in the battlefronts of Jakarta, Java and Palembang.
With the retirement of Olympian Tshomle Go and withdrawal of the injured Antoinette Rivero, the taekwondo assembly line paraded new products.
John Paul Lizardo, Maria Camille Manalo joined veteran Elaine Alora in the honor roll, which along with the poomsae team, became the most productive NSA with four gold, three silver and five bronze medals.
The fancied boxers – Asian Games gold medalist Rey Saludar and Olympic qualifier Mark Anthony Barriga – made a failed bid, but the boxing team found new hope in SEAG first timer Dennis Galvan, who beat the odds in upstaging an Indonesian at the latter’s home turf and joined veteran Charly Suarez in the podium.
Frederick Ong also succeeded where Asian Games gold medalist Biboy Rivera failed, winning the singles gold, the only contribution of the young bowling squad.
Team Philippines drew surprise numbers from a new generation of athletes, the new hope of Philippine sports already hounded by controversies.
Diego Lorenzo became the new hero in equestrian for his win in the showjumping event, ruled alternately by Antoinette Leviste and Mikee Cojuangco.
The rowers surprised the host country, perennial overall champions in the SEA Games, by beating the hosts in the 22-man crew.
Host Indonesia introduced a mind game, bridge, of which they are world champions, but the team from the Philippines – two of them the youngest 26 years and two of them the oldest at 77, provided some golden moments with their wins in two events.
Very young players also stepped forward, and played well to win. One of the country’s youngest athletes – 14-year-old Danielle Faith Santos – made her debut with a win in the 50m surface event with a time of 20.48 seconds in fin swimming where 16 gold medals were staked.
The four-man men’s team composed of 18-year old Mike Godoy from Bulacan, and Palaweños Leonard Angelo Sabellina (14), Earl Mathew Rodriguez (14) and France Garett Baaco (15) won the bronze in the 4x100m surface relay, in 2:43.40 won by Indonesia in (2:29.36) and Vietnam (2:36.27).
Ina Flores showed her class in the new sport of wall-climbing while Fil-American Samantha Bermudez had only two bronze medals to show in wakeboarding, but she knew where she stands and hopes to do better when sport gets back into the SEAG calendar.
The Philippines had a concluding tally of 36-56-77 from 39 sports it competed in, sixth oveall for the second time since 2007. It was the seventh time the Philippines was out of the top three in the SEA Games after editions in 1979, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2009.
The Philippines and Indonesia joined the SEA Games in 1977, but they were poles apart since then. Indonesia, overall champion for the 10th time, had a concluding medal count of 182-151-143 gold-silver-bronze medals, with defending champion Thailand next at 109-100-120, following by Vietnam (96-92-100), Vietnam (96-92-100), Malaysia (39-30-81), and Singapore (42-45-73).