KUALA LUMPUR – Despite the shortage of gold medals, the Philippines can look forward to the future with the emergence of new stars in the just-ended 29th Southeast Asian Games.
Fil-American Trenten Anthony Beram lit up the tracks with a golden sweep, Aries Toledo stunned the field in decathlon, Kaitlin de Guzman sparkled in gymnastics and Brennan Wayne Louie struck gold in fencing.
The list includes Fil-Briton John Nobel Marvin in boxing, Agatha Wong in wushu, Mariya Takahashi in judo, Dines Dumaan in pencak silat and John Colin Syquia in equestrian.
Beram, a 21-year-old runner from University of Connecticut, swept the 200 and 400 meters, the first Filipino to do it. He could have added more medals in the relays had he not injured his left thigh.
Toledo, another rookie, stepped up when he upset Asian champion Sutthisak Singkhon of Thailand in the 10-event discipline. He was trailing all the way until a powerful run in the final event – the 1,500-meter run – wiped out the Thai’s advantage.
De Guzman, 18-year-old daughter of former Games gold medalist Cintamoni dela Cruz, weaved her magic in the uneven bars. With more seasoning in the United States, she could be a force to reckon with in the region.
Louie, a 25-year-old fencer based in Los Angeles, California, won the country’s only gold medal in the sport. He heads a young batch of fencers looking beyond the SEA Games.
The boxing team won two of six gold medals, but none was more spectacular than what Marvin did to Malaysian Adli Hafid Mohd Pauz whom he destroyed in 21 seconds.
With more training and exposure, the 24-year-old Marvin could be a medal contender in the Asian Games next year in Indonesia.
Wushu has a new star in Wong who accounted for the team’s only two medals – a gold in the women’s taijiquan and silver in the women’s optional taijijian.
A 19-year-old student of College of St. Benilde, Wong could also be a medal candidate in the Asiad.
Kiyomi Watanabe won her third straight gold medal in judo, but she had to share the limelight with a fellow Fil-Japanese, 16-year-old Mariya Takahashi who won the gold in her Games debut.
Dumaan, a 22-year-old son of a Capiz farmer, became the reluctant poster boy in pencak silat after ending the country’s 12-year-old gold medal drought with his victory over Indonesia’s Firmian in the final.
Syquia is the oldest in the list at 46, but the manner with which he won the individual show jumping event aboard Adventure E makes him a gold medal prospect in the Asian Games.
Speed skater Kathryn Magno, the only Filipino to see action in the final day Wednesday, failed to make a podium finish in the 1,000-meter race.
After 402 events in 38 sports, the Philippines closed out with 24 golds, 33 silvers and 64 bronzes, less than what it collected in Singapore (29-36-66).
Among national sports associations, athletics has the most golds with five, including Eric Cray’s last-gasp win in the 400-meter hurdles, but triathlon tops them all with a sweep of two events.
For the fifth straight Games, the Philippines failed to win a single gold medal in swimming where it fielded only eight entries to vie for 38 golds. There were no entries in 13 diving events.
But the sport can take solace from the two silvers won by Fil-American James Deiparine, who along with Nicole Oliva, can be counted upon when the country hosts the Games two years from now.
As expected, the men’s basketball team retained its title despite initial struggles against Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and Carlo Badio and Chezka Centeno completed a sweep of the 9-ball pool singles in billiards.
Taekwondo delivered two golds as did gymnastics, boxing, judo and triathlon.
There were unexpected gold each from lawn bowls and ice hockey, matching the feat of wushu and fencing.
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