The Philippines national Brazilian jiu-jitsu team plans to maximize home-floor advantage when it competes in the Southeast Asian Games beginning next month.
Head coach Hansel Co will be bringing in the bigger guys, who will compete in the 85-kilogram, 94-kg, over 94-kg weight classes.
Co said most of his fighters have other combat-sports backgrounds besides Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
“ ’Yung mga heavier weights natin, sinasabi ko nga mga judokas. There’s one who’s also a wrestler,” he said.
“Noong college sila nag-judo at nag-wrestling. Mas regular silang jiu-jitsu na nagte-training ngayon than judo or wrestling so they’re actually jiu-jitsu athletes now, it’s just ’yung background nila nag-start sila ng jiujitsu or wrestling.”
The coach said this makes his roster flexible.
“Ang maganda especially sa heavyweight ang laro doon more on stand up game. ’Yung magagaang masmaraming instances na nasa ground sila pero ’yung big guys kasi most of the time kung sino ang makakuha ng takedown ’yung ang panalo, very critical ang throws,” Co said.
He added that the whole team is excited to be competing at home, especially as the sport makes its official debut in the Games.
“Noong nalaman namin na masasali siya sa SEA Games at dito pa magaganap ang SEA Games, we felt na very good opportunity ito for us to showcase ang galing at talento ng mga atleta natin,” said Co.
“Definitely malaking advantage ’yung lalaban tayo dito, nandito ang home-court support. Kahit sinong atleta in any sport iba ang pakiramdam, hindi ka sanay sa paligid mo, uuwi ka hindi sa bahay mo, may adjustment na kailangan. Dito lamang agad tayo.”
Co said the team will be fielding its big guns, spearheaded by Meggie Ochoa, Annie Ramirez and Marc Alexander Lim.
The Philippines will be holding contests in 11 divisions at Laus Group Events Center in San Fernando, Pampanga.
There will be 4 women’s divisions (45 kg, 49 kg, 55 kg, and 62 kg) and 7 men’s divisions (56 kg, 62 kg, 69 kg, 77 kg, 85 kg, 94 kg, and over 94 kg).
Co said all of the team’s 11 athletes have the potential to win medals. Six of them are favored to win the gold.
“Kasi sa Asian championships, that’s Asian level competition nagme-medal tayo. So you’d expect sa SEA Games tanggal na ang malalakas ng Asia, mas malakas na tayo. Sina Gian (Dee), sina Mark, Meggie, Annie, Kaila (Napolis), Apryl (Eppinger) favorites ’yan to win gold,” said Co.
Their biggest rivals will come from Thailand, which pours a big chunk of its budget into developing its own fighters.
“So sa Thailand malaki ang suporta ng government sa kanila, pinapadala sila sa competition all over the world, ’yung training nila binubuhusan ng funding, so ’yung mga atleta nila nag-improve,” said Co.
There are also other Southeast Asian countries who boast of individual talents, he said.
“Like sa women’s 49 division, si Jessa Khan taga Cambodia na lumaki sa States nanalo sa Asian Games. Sa Singapore naman nag-train siya overseas, si Constance Leia naman. Nanalo siya ng silver medal,” he said.
The multi-titled Ochoa said competing at home is big even for someone who has already joined larger-scale tournaments.
“The last time sa Asian Games which is bigger than SEA Games. Pero iba yung lalaban ka sa sarili mong bansa. Mapo-promote mo ang sport sa taong bayan, maipapakita mong may potential tayo sa sport na ito,” said Ochoa, who won bronze in the 2018 Asian Games.
Lim added: “Nothing beats fighting in your hometown. Your people will be cheering for you. We feel you can't lose in our hometown. We feel extra pride for fighting here.”
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