MANILA, Philippines - Using the old and heavy boats in practice may have worked wonders for the members of the Philippine paddlers that almost swept the opposition in the recent ICF World Dragon Boat Championships in Milan, Italy.
The Filipinos raked in six golds and one silver medal in seven races, and emerged as the top team in the Open category of the event that drew 14 countries, including Russia, Germany, Sweden and the United States.
Coach Leonora Escollante said upon their return from Milan that the Filipinos are used to the heavy boats in their daily practices at the Manila Bay. When they got to Milan, they were provided with better ones.
“Naging advantage tuloy sa amin na mabibigat ang boats na gamit namin dito. Doon, puro brand-new ang pinagamit sa races. But at least, what we brought there are the latest model of paddles,” said Escollante.
Jonne Go, head of the 26-strong Philippine delegation, said they were surprised by the size of the opposition because even the members of the junior teams of the other countries almost dwarfed the Filipinos.
But once the races began, and they started winning the gold, it was clear that they earned the respect of the other competitors.
They won the gold in the 10 paddles all-men, mixed 20 (12 men, eight women), mixed 10 (six men, four women), mixed 10 for the 500m, 10-men for the 2,000m and 10-men for the 500m.
The only gold that escaped the Filipinos in the events they competed in was in the mixed 20 for 500m.
The Filipinos were such a hit that by the end of last week’s competition, they were being offered as much as a hundred Euros, which is equivalent to more than P6,000, for every jacket that bore the Philippine colors.
“People were buying it from our paddlers but I reminded them that these were our standard issues. I told them we will come home wearing those jackets. So, they all turned down the offers,” said the head of the delegation.
The members of the team are Manuel Maya, Raquiel Espinosa, Mary Neth Bechayda, Josette Deriada, Rolando Isidro, Ricky Sardena, Joseph Magno, Edcer Penetrante, Alex Sumagaysay, Alberto Hugo, Noelle Wenceslao, Alex Generalo, Mitchelle Pabulayan, Leonita Banlat, Ciselle Schwandner, Jenevie Manalo, Edward Balbuena, Ric Nacional, Rafael Roniel, Florence Caro, Ambrocia Gontinas, Dany Fonales, Claire Montemayor, Diomedes Manalo and Arnold Laureno.
They also thanked the members of the Filipino community in Milan for providing them almost everything that they wanted and needed.
“We’re not used to eating pasta all the time, and mostly that was provided by the organizers, pasta with just olive oil and parmesan cheese,” said Go.
“So when help came from the Filipino community, we felt more comfortable. We wanted galunggong (fish) and they provided us with their version of the galunggong, plus vegetables and rice. It really helped,” she added.