HAIYANG, China – Frustrated twice in Day 1 by Asian Games champion Indonesia, the Philippine dragon boat team snared a silver medal in the heart-stopping 10-man crew, 500-meter race of the Asian Beach Games.
On the rebound after coming up dry in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games on their home turf, the Indonesians drove the dragon head a mere half second ahead of the Filipinos in the four-nation finale, clocking an impressive 1:52.477 against Phl’s 1:52.927. Thailand upstaged host China (1:55.667) for third in 1:54.088.
Indonesia also staved off the Filipinos in the morning eliminations of Group A in 1:53 against the latter’s 1:55 thus rushing to claim a finals seat along with Thailand which outlasted China in the other group of a total eight bidders.
Forced to a repechage against Vietnam and Hong Kong, the Filipinos handily ruled the extra round in 1:57 while China turned back the challenge of Japan and Macau to complete the final cast.
Though able to cut a handsome four seconds and take the lead with just about 20 meters left in the final run, the Filipinos lost steam in the last 10 meters to yield the gold which likewise eluded their bronze-medal predecessors in the first Asian Beach Games six years ago.
“Tough luck, we had done everything according to plan,” said coach Len Escollante while commending the squad which gave it all in the competition among 45 members of the Olympic Council of Asia.
Confirming the splendid performance of the Filipinos was a technical delegate of the Asian Dragon Boat Federation who commented, “the performance of Indonesia was expected but the Philippines was spectacular.”
To provide moral push, Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco Jr., chef de mission Benjamin Espiritu and NOC representative Joey Romasanta trooped to the venue of Jiulong Lake nestled in the majesty of Zhaoliu or Tiger Mountain.
“Our victory today already improves our performance from the last Asian Beach Games in Oman two years ago but we will continue to hunt for more notwithstanding the small size of our delegation,” Espiritu said.
Also responding to the call of duty were sport climbing aces Milky Mae Tejares, Jonathan Feleo, Jason Sauco and Dennis Oliver Diaz, who all advanced to the semifinal round of the women and men bouldering event.
The women’s 3-on-3 basketball squad split its two games yesterday, toying with Nepal, 20-1, in the morning before bowing to tall India, 14-9, after leading most of the match.
While the outcome kept the Filipinas in the thick of things they must hurdle Thailand today, at 9 a.m., to preserve their chances for a medal.
The Filipino paddlers, assembled under the Philippine Canoe/Kayak Federation headed by its president Dr. Sim Chi Tat and secretary general Jonne Go, will be on revenge mode today for the 200-meter race and tomorrow in the gruelling 3,000-meter event.
“We want to make most of this exposure before we prepare for the World Championships to be organized by the International Canoe Federation in Milan, Italy,” said Go.