MANILA – Mericien Venzon bagged the women’s seniors crown at the Philippine Figure Skating Championships at the SM Mall of Asia skating rink Sunday in Pasay City.
With her win, the Filipino-American earned a qualifying slot to the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September. Winners at the German tournament will fill in the remaining slots for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
Venzon, 17, narrowly defeated two other Filipino-American skaters to clinch the gold. The scores of the top three finishers were so close that it took foreign judges at least two hours to decide on the winner.
“The judges had to go over the scores not only by computer but also manually, making sure there was no mistake because of the Olympic qualifying slot up for grabs,” said Engr. Ric Camaligan, president of the Philippine Skating Union (PSU).
Venzon scored 102.29 points, after bucking a slip while performing a double axle in Sunday's long program.
Such finish was just 0.16 more than the 102.13 points of silver medalist Lauren Kho. Gracielle Tan, meantime, closed at third with 101.86.
“The waiting was nerve-wracking. But I’m proud to represent our country in the Nebelhorn Trophy,” said Venzon, who is a freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
“The deliberations took so long, but they needed to be sure that we had a deserving champion in the senior women’s division,” added Camaligan.
She was deemed the crowd favorite as she had close to a hundred supporters. They even had a streamer that read “We love you Mericien!”
“What can we say but we feel proud of our only daughter,” said Dr. Merlin Venzon, a pediatrician in the United States for the last 30 years. His wife Ellen, a registered nurse, also came to the Philippines.
Meantime, coming in at fourth place at the women’s seniors division is defending champion Elizabeth Stern from Stamford, Connecticut.
She was leading after Saturday’s compulsory figures but bowed out of contention after suffering two spills in the long program. She finished with 92.60 points.
In the girls’ junior division, Zhaira Costiniano from Dallas, Texas won with a score of 108.08 points. Carmen Naomi Damian took the silver (74.33) as Ma. Jessica Cabili earned the the bronze (53.29).
Meanwhile, Filipino Dikki John Martinez was the only participant in the men's senior division. He garnered 94.19 points.
According to Camaligan, the entry of Martinez to the Nebelhorn Trophy will be evaluated by the PSU technical committee.
John Samuel Minas was also the lone competitor in the boys’ juniors. He scored 97.90 points.
Camaligan awarded the trophies and medals to the winners aside alongside PSU chairman Hans Sy and Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco, Jr.
Photo courtesy of Jun Mendoza, The Philippine Star