MANILA, Philippines -- After a long string of heartaches in the Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine men's water polo team fully believes it can win the gold medal in this year's edition of the biennial event.
"This is our year," declared head coach Dale Evangelista during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Amelie Hotel in Manila.
Evangelista had seen the vast improvement of the team the past few years, and is confident that with the support of the hometown crowd, it will all happen at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.
"With the skills, we are fair game with the best in the region, especially Singapore and Malaysia, but the support of our countrymen will spell the difference. We hope they come to support us," he said.
The Philippine water polo team is a perennial medalist in the SEA Games, with five silvers, including three straight in 2005, 2007 and 2009, and four bronze medals since 1991.
When the Philippines hosted the SEA Games in 2005, the Philippines came very close to the gold, leading Singapore, 6-5, only to allow two goals in the last 45 seconds en route to an 7-6 defeat.
"We are motivated by that loss," said Evangelista, who came to the forum with team captain Tani Gomez Jr., co-captain Roy Canete and team member Mark Jerwin Valdez.
Aside from Singapore and the Philippines, also vying in men's water polo are Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
The Philippine water polo team underwent rebuilding since 2012. It missed the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar then finished fifth in 2015 in Singapore and fourth in 2017 in Malaysia.
In the 2015 SEA Games, the Philippines lost to Singapore, 23-2, and in 2017, the losing margin to the Singaporeans was down to 7-5. In the recent FINA Challengers’ Cup in Singapore, the Filipinos lost to the hosts, 11-7, and bowed out of the medal race.
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