Tolentino sees 'uphill battle' for Team PH to defend SEA Games crown

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2022 03:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Team Philippines is in for an "uphill battle" to defend its crown in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, the president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) acknowledged.

Filipino athletes dominated the 2019 SEA Games at home in record fashion, running away with the overall title after winning 149 gold medals. But POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino admits that duplicating the feat will be difficult for Team Philippines.

Preparing for the biennial event has become a challenge for the Filipino athletes, especially after Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 3 due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. That meant that the athletes could not train in their usual venues, including the PhilSports Complex in Pasig City and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila.

"Na-delay na naman 'yung mga training, na-stop na naman 'yung mga training, unless na takbo agad sila sa mga Level 2 areas na pwedeng mag-contact sports training," Tolentino said in an appearance on "Power and Play."

"Kinompute ko eh, talagang uphill battle 'yan ng SEA Games Vietnam," he admitted.

Tolentino pointed out that in 2019, Vietnam finished second behind the Philippines with 98 gold medals. The hosts of the upcoming SEA Games, Vietnam removed some sports that produced medals for the Philippines in their own program.

"Binawasan naman tayo, inalis 'yung arnis, inalis 'yung obstacle sports, so ang laki na agad noon, kulang-kulang 20 na agad 'yun," Tolentino said. "So nagbawas na, nagdagdag pa. Nagdagdag naman sila ng, nasa 30 medals na agad 'yun. So minus and plus."

"Paano hahabulin 'yun? So uphill battle talaga 'yan," he added.

Vietnam removed arnis, which generated 14 golds for the Philippines in 2019, as well as obstacle sports, which churned out six more golds for the country. 

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has expressed its hope that the national athletes can begin training in Metro Manila venues by February, should the IATF lower the alert level in NCR.

Meanwhile, other athletes can train in bubble set-ups in areas under Alert Level 2, while those based abroad are continuously preparing as well.

Tolentino has also assured that athletes headed for the SEA Games will be given their COVID-19 vaccine booster with the MVP Sports Foundation providing 500 shots of the Moderna vaccine.

The POC listed 626 athletes who will compete in 39 of the 40 sports programmed by Vietnam in the May 12 to 23 SEA Games.