ATHLETICS chief Philip Ella Juico seemed unflustered when top sprinter Kristina Knott announced Monday that she would be unable to compete in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games due to a foot injury.
Knott revealed in an online press conference organized by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association that her latest MRI scan last April 26, Tuesday, showed that she suffered a plantar fascia tear on her left heel.
"I have been dealing with heel pain for a while now so last week I got my third MRI to see what was going on. It turns out I have a torn plantar fascia and will be on crutches for the next two weeks," said the Tokyo Olympic Games veteran.
"This why my coach Joey Scott and I have decided to pull out of the SEA Games so I can recover for the Asian Games and, possibly, the world championships," added the reigning SEAG women's 200-meter defending champion and double gold medalist in the Philippine edition of the sportsfest three years ago.
"Of course, I was disappointed and I cried about it when it happened, but the tears are over it now. The reality has set in so what we intend to do is to to let it (the injury) heal, rehab so I will be back stronger."
Knott said that there would be no running and weigh-bearing exercises for the next two weeks on top of not competing in May to allow the injury to heal.
She was hopeful that she would be back in action for the world athletic championships to be held in July in Eugene, Oregon, but did not want to return hastily so as not to worsen the injury.
"We don't want to rush because the ultimate goal is to win in the Asian Games. That is my goal right there. If the world championships is not possible, we will just focus on the Asian Games and win golds in the 100 and 200-meter dash," Knott said.
Until the discovery of the injury, her potential for a sprint double was very possible after Vietnamese Le Tu Chinh, the reigning 100-meter queen, was earlier sidelined by a severe knee injury and would no see action on her home turf.
While Juico was saddened by the development, he revealed that the national team had a solid fallback position in picking up the slack for the injured Knott, who was also pencilled in for the 4x100-meter women's relay.
The PATAFA president announced that the Richardson twins – Kyla and Kayla – would be available to compete in the Vietnam Games.
Kyla appeared to have the inside track for a golden double after sweeping the women's 100 and 200-meter sprints in the PacWest Track & Field Championships, a US NCAA Division 2 meet, held from April 29 to 30 at the Pt. Loma Nazarene University oval in San Diego, California.
A senior at the Fresno Pacific University, Kyla topped the women's 100-meter run in 11.30 seconds and then ruled the 200-meter race in 23.12 seconds, adding a third gold as the school won the 4x100-meter relay.
Her winning time in the century dash was better than Le's clocking of 11.54 seconds in bagging the gold in the SEAG track meet held at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas, Tarlac three years ago.
On the other hand, Richardson's clocking in the 200 was within striking distance of Knott's gold-medal time of 23.01 seconds, a SEAG and national record, also at the NCC oval in 2019.
"Based on what we know and what the other (regional runners) are unable to do, I guess we have a solid basis in the 100 and 200-meter races to say that we can win golds there in Kyla Richardson," Juico pointed out.
National coach Jeoffrey Chua, who supervises the sprinters, said PATAFA would make representations with the Vietnamese hosts to allow Kyla and Kayla, who bagged the gold medal in the 100-meter run in the 2015 Singapore SEAG, could replace Knott in both sprint events.
At the same briefing, siblings Said and Yacine Guermali likewise announced they would be unable to make their SEAG debut for the country in Vietnam for various reasons.
Said, who was set to run the men's 800 and 1,500-meter, was supposed to run in the revealed that he had been suffering with plantar fascitis and achilles tendinosis for the last two weeks and was advised by his physiotherapist to skip racing for a while.
Younger brother Yacine, who was to compete in the 1,500 and 5,000-meter races, cited his heavy academic workload in pursuing his masters degree as the reason for being unable to don the PH colors in the SEA Games.
Despite the setbacks to Knott and the Guermali brothers, Juico said that duplicating the 11 gold, 8 silver and 8 bronze medals the country won in track and field three years ago was "still doable."
"In the back of our mind we wanted to maintain that (tally) because of what our athletes went through during the pandemic but I believe achieving what we did in 2019 is still doable," he said.
"We Filipinos excel at improvising and this is what I expect of our athletes in Vietnam."