MANILA, Philippines -- After retaining their place in Division A of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup, the Gilas Pilipinas Women are now targeting a first-ever appearance in the Asian Games.
The Gilas Women have yet to compete in the Asiad, but head coach Patrick Aquino believes they have proven that they deserve to represent the Philippines in the quadrennial event with their recent results.
In 2019, the Philippines finally won gold in women's basketball in the Southeast Asian Games, and earlier this month they bucked a less than ideal preparation to finish seventh in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup and avoid relegation to Division B.
"Hopefully, sana maisama tayo sa Asian Games for the first time," Aquino told reporters on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning. "I think we deserve to be playing for the country for the Asian Games."
The coach had hoped to be included in the 2019 Asiad in Jakarta, Indonesia, as at the time the Gilas Women were already in Division A of FIBA Asia. However, the Philippines didn't send a women's basketball team to either the 5-on-5 or 3x3 competitions.
This time around, Aquino is hopeful that they will be considered.
"I think dapat naman na maisama na tayo," he said. "Winning the gold medal in the 2019 edition (of the SEA Games), I wish that we could be considered."
"It would be a great honor for us and I think we'll represent our country with the best all the time and sana nga, basta sana, masama naman," he added.
He is confident that he will have the support of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in his push to include the Gilas Women in the Philippine delegation for the Asian Games that will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 10 to September 25.
"Talagang all-out support sila and they've been very, very supportive," Aquino said. "I think the last time nung 2018, they were really pushing us to go join the Asian Games. Unfortunately, hindi tayo naisama."
"But I think this time, I think, sana with our credentials already, winning the Southeast Asian Games, and you know, being still in level 1 of the FIBA Asia Cup, I think sana maisama kami," he added.
The Asian Games is just one of the events that the Gilas Women is looking at joining in what should be a busy 2022 for the program.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team couldn't build on their breakthrough triumph in the 2019 SEA Games, and did not compete at all in 2020. The FIBA Women's Asia Cup was their first international tournament since the SEA Games.
In 2022, they hope to compete not just in the Asian Games, but also in a pre-qualifying tournament for the FIBA Women's World Cup. Of course, the Gilas Women are also set to defend their gold medal in the SEA Games in Vietnam.
With a packed 2022 schedule on the horizon, Aquino wants the team to return to work as soon as possible.
"November would be a good start for us," he said. "Maski thrice a week lang ulit, just to keep 'yung physical shape namin, 'yung rhythm, andoon pa rin, hindi nawawala."