POC chief still confident of 4th place finish in SEA Games

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2022 11:04 AM | Updated as of May 22 2022 11:15 AM

The team of Philippines pose with the silver medal during the award ceremony for the Women's Foil Team final at the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31) in Hanoi, Vietnam, 17 May 2022. Luong Thai Linh, EPA-EFE.
The team of Philippines pose with the silver medal during the award ceremony for the Women's Foil Team final at the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31) in Hanoi, Vietnam, 17 May 2022. Luong Thai Linh, EPA-EFE.

MANILA, Philippines -- A podium finish appears out of reach for Team Philippines in the 31st Southeast Asian Games, but the chief of the country's Olympic committee says fourth place is within the grasp.

As of Sunday morning, the Philippines have collected 47 gold medals in Vietnam, tied with Singapore for fourth place in the medal table.

"Kumpyansa kumpyansa pa rin ako na mauunahan natin ang Singapore, kasi ngayong araw na 'to, we have still 10 finals," said Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino on ABS-CBN'S TelerRdyo. 

Already assured of gold are the Gilas Pilipinas Women, who are playing Malaysia in their final assignment of the SEA Games as of press time. The Gilas Pilipinas men's basketball team will look to sweep their own campaign later Sunday.

Four Filipino boxers, including Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Eumir Marcial, are also set to fight in gold medal matches in the afternoon.

Tolentino and other Philippine sports executives were hopeful of a third place finish heading into the SEA Games, and for a while it appeared that Filipino athletes could achieve it. However, Indonesia surged ahead, with 59 gold medals as of Sunday.

Thailand has won 75 gold medals and host nation Vietnam is way ahead of the pack with a whopping 181 golds, even beyond the 149 that the Philippines won when the country hosted the biennial meet in 2019.

"Nasa range talaga," Tolentino said of the 47 golds won by the Filipino athletes so far. "Ang laki ng naging problema natin sa training, unlike other countries."

The POC chief noted that Filipino athletes were unable to train as well as they could have, given the government restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teams had to settle for bubble training camps as opposed to going abroad for foreign exposure.

"In spite of that, nakita mo naman ang mga deliveries," he said.

The 47 gold medals are the most won by the Philippines in a non-hosting year since the 2003 SEA Games, when Filipino athletes won 48 golds in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

And Tolentino believes that Filipino athletes could have won even more, if not for some misses in what he called "subjective" events such as dancesport, kickboxing, and other martial arts where results are based on judges' decisions.

"Sobrang dami ng silver natin, 60. And, sa 60 na 'yan, ilan 'yung subjective?" he pointed out. "Subjective, sa judges 'yun."

"So bigyan ko ng clear example. Day 1 ng dancesports, okay, six events, one gold lang ang nakuha natin. That's the forte of the Philippines," he noted. "Second day, andoon na ako, nakaharap na ako, nakaupo na, nakasimangot na ako sa harapan ng judges. Six events again, we got four golds out of six and two silver. So that's subjective."

Regardless of those results, Tolentino is still quite pleased with how Filipino athletes have delivered in Hanoi and believes this to be a building block for the country's campaign in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Already, some Filipino athletes are displaying their readiness for bigger events, including gymnast Carlos Yulo who won five gold medals, pole vaulter EJ Obiena who reset the Games record, and young weightlifter Vanessa Sarno who dominated in her first appearance in the SEA Games. Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz, of course, lived up to expectations and won a second straight gold in her event.

"'Yung iba, made-develop pa rin bago dumating ng Paris 2024," Tolentino guaranteed.

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