BATTLING in a pair of down-to-the-wire thrillers for two days in a row, the last match against the defending champion bannered by a Tokyo Olympian – and in front of a rollicking hometown crowd to boot – would ruffle any team’s feathers.
But not for sisters Pia and Gabby Bidaure, and Phoebe Amistoso, who were cool as cucumbers in fashioning a milestone win to clinch the gold medal in the women’s team recurve event of the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games archery championships Wednesday.
Tuning out the loud Vietnamese crowd at the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center, the trio dethroned Vietnam 27-26 in a nail-biting shoot-off after both squads were tied at 4-all after four matches.
In the closely contested duel against the hosts, led by Tokyo Olympic veteran Do Thi Anh Nguyet, the Filipinas took the first match 51-45, narrowly dropped the next two 49-47, 53-51 before extending the series to a shoot-off in winning the fourth, 57-49.
Under intense time pressure, it all came down to the last shot by Gabby Bidaure, who kept her poise to hit a bull's-eye, good for 10 points, in securing the come-from-behind victory that ended a 19-year-old gold medal dry spell in the recurve event.
The last time that Filipina bets won the team event was, coincidentally, also in Hanoi during the inaugural Vietnam SEA Games in 2003 through the efforts of Joan Tabanag, Jennifer Chan and Rachelle Cabral, according to World Archery Philippines secretary-general Rosendo Sombrio.
“Talagang nail-biter po ’yung victory natin, kasi Gabby only had 9 seconds left in the 120 seconds allotted time for the squad to shoot her final arrow. (Our victory was truly a nail-biter because Gabby only had 9 seconds left of the allotted 120 seconds to shoot her final arrow.) Thankfully, she hit the bull’s-eye,” noted Sombrio from the Vietnamese capital.
WAP president Atty. Clint Aranas, from Manila, added: “The WAP archery family stands proud in the win, which took us almost two decades to win the gold again. We see that the trio of Pia and Monica Bidaure and Phoebe Amistoso can only improve in the coming competitions as they are at the right age to peak in their game.”
The youngest of the Bidaure sisters at 20, Gabby said she felt no pressure at all despite the hometown gallery and the clock winding down to shoot the last arrow.
“Hindi ko po na-feel ’yung pressure at that moment. Pati na rin ’yung crowd. Ang mindset ko lang po is to shoot ng maayos. Dapat ko lang i-shoot talaga ng maayos. (I did not feel the pressure of the moment. Even the crowd. My mindset was just to shoot properly. That was all),” she said.
She said that she only had to look back the previous day when she was exactly in the same pressure-cooker situation against Myanmar that also ended in a shoot-off.
Bidaure was just as clutch, delivering the decisive shot with the team’s last try in lifting the Philippines to a 27-26 squeaker over Myanmar.
“I feel very, very happy po. The victory feels sweeter because I got to share it with my team,” said the University of St. La Salle student, who made her SEA Games debut in the 2019 Philippine edition.
“At least we will bring home a medal, and a gold no less,” she added, recalling how the national recurve team failed to win any medal during the SEA Games hosted by the country three years ago.
Amistoso was just as glad in having won for the country, grateful that Gabby Bidaure was around to bail the team out in the shoot-off when she shot 8 points as the second archer in the shooting sequence.
“I was not disappointed when I scored 8 points since Gabby was there to take the last shot so there was hope,” she pointed out.
Elder sister Pia, 24, was proud of the poise Gabby displayed at crunch time, which she attributed to the support that all three team members gave each other in the heat of battle and having been trained together for a long time.
Sombrio said the national team benefited in training and living for two months together – first in Marikina then in Dumaguete city, Negros Oriental, before heading for the regional meet, nurturing the chemistry that served the trio well in Hanoi.
“They (the Bidaures and Amistoso) got to know each other well. And they are quick to learn and obey whatever the coaches instruct them to do. Very teachable,” the official noted.
He added that all three are products of the WAP development program, and since they were still young, the federation expected them to mature and continue to have a fruitful archery career.
“We are very happy that we are on the right track now. It’s hard to develop archers. But since our present crop is young they have a bright future,” Sombrio said, adding that there were more promising archers that were being developed in the pipeline.
“The WAP, under the leadership of Atty. Aranas, that we will have young archers who will take over once our present national team members are no longer competitive. There will be a transition but that is still far away,” he said. “We are reaping the fruits of our program.”