PH gymnast eyes slot in YOG finals

By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 19 2014 03:15 PM | Updated as of Aug 19 2014 11:15 PM

NANJING – Gymnast Ava Lorein Verdeflor gave the Philippines something to look forward to yesterday, the second day of high-level competition in the Youth Olympic Games here.

The 15-year-old Verdeflor, who lives with his Filipino parents in Plano, Texas, looked impressive in the vault and the floor exercise to stay in the hunt for one of 18 slots in the all-around finals.

Verdeflor was pretty steady in the uneven bars and didn’t do well in the balance beam but still closed her day ranked seventh with one evening session left.

If she makes it to the finals, Verdeflor will be back at the Nanjing Olympic Center Gymnasium on Wednesday for the finals and vie for a medal.

The Philippines has yet to win a medal in the Youth Olympics following its maiden stint in Singapore in 2010 where it fielded nine athletes.

Verdeflor, being coached by Yevgeny Marchenko, a five-time world champion in sports acrobatics, stands a decent chance of making it with her 50.200 total.

She did 13.100 in the vault, 12.450 in the uneven bars, 12.700 in the balance beam and 11.950 in the floor exercise.

“I’m relieved. I’m really happy on how I did, maybe not so much on beam but I feel like I really did good on floor and vault,” she said after her performance.

“In the (uneven) bars I didn’t do better in my dismount but that was also a good performance for me. The beam wasn’t my best but hopefully next time it will be better,” added Verdeflor.

The young Filipina gymnast vowed to do better if she makes it to the finals.

“On Wednesday when I qualify, I have to be confident and I need to get up there, be happy with myself, not be shaky. I was really nervous today. I have to get my nerves in check,” she said.

After two sessions, Verdeflor stood in seventh place behind Elissa Downie of Great Britain (53.500), Yan Wang of China (53.200), Iosra Abdelaziz of Italy (53.150), Stephanie Hernandez of Mexico (51.200), Sae Miyakawa of Japan (50.900) and Gala Nesurini of Switzerland (50.425).

The Russian coach is keeping his fingers crossed on Verdeflor making it to the finals.

“Considering that this is first a big international meet, she did a good job. Obviously we had some mistakes. The dismount on the bars could be better with a few mistakes in the beams,” he said.

“Our goal is to be in the finals so we’ll see how the rest of the competition will go. Hopefully she’ll make it. But she has a lot of potential. She can do a lot much better. Obviously we’re looking forward for many, many more years,” added Marchenko.

Top Filipino sports officials led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia were at the gymnasium to watch Verdeflor.

“I hope that we qualify. I think we will qualify,” said Cojuangco, who was up in the stands with his daughter, International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, and chef-de-mission Jonne Go.

“I have confidence in our young gymnast and her coach. Bilib ako sa coach niya. She was well in control. We don’t know yet but we’re hoping she qualified,” added the POC chief.

On Tuesday, Filipina swimmer Roxanne Yu will be back at the Nanjing Olympic Center Natatorium to join the heats of the 200-meter backstroke.

Last Sunday, she raced in the 100-meter heats and ranked 26th among 33 entries and did not make it to the finals despite a new personal best of one minute 05.16 seconds.

Zion Rose Nelson will race in the 400-m heats on Wednesday, the same day hooter Celdon Jude Arellano makes his debut in the men’s air rifle.

Archers Bianca Roxas-Chua Gotuaco and Luis Gabriel Moreno, the two other Filipino entries here, will see action Friday.