SEA Games: The golds that should’ve, would’ve, could’ve been Team PH’s

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Even weeks before the SEA Games, Eric Cray was skeptical about his chances of retaining the gold in the 100 meters, given the ultra-tight schedule. Pool photo

The Philippines will go home with 24 gold medals in the 29th Southeast Asian Games, less than half the projected number that officials hoped the country would win and a handful short of the 29 the team collected in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.

But there were some instances in Kuala Lumpur that, if a break or two had gone the Filipinos’ way, they could have added to their first-place finishes.

Here are some of the Philippines’ notable near-wins in Malaysia.

Eric Cray, 100-meter sprints
He could’ve easily retained the 100-meter title if it had been set on a different day, not a mere hour after racing in the 400-meter hurdles. He lost by a hairline to gold winner Khairul Hafiz Jantan, Malaysia’s sprint teen prodigy who had a clear schedule prior to the 100s final.

EJ Obiena, pole vault
This might be the most head-shaking “what if” of these SEA Games. He not only could’ve won the gold in men’s pole vault in Kuala Lumpur, but he has what it takes to be the best in Asia. A hamstring injury has set back those plans, but the hope is he’ll be able to recover and get back to competing again. 

Arven Alcantara, taekwondo
He was a victim of questionable officiating when he lost in the men’s under-68 kilogram final in taekwondo. The score was tied at 17 apiece between him and his Malaysian opponent, but the referee ruled that Alcantara had committed a series of penalties that was enough to disqualify him. Even Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco Jr. found the decision so egregious he placed a call to his Malaysian counterpart to complain about it. 

James Deiparine, swimming
He couldn’t get the job done in a couple of breaststroke events, but the times the US-based Filipino swimmer registered in the 50– and 100-meter races weren’t that far off from the Indonesians who claimed gold. 

Deiparine was .35 seconds behind in the 50 meters and .36 seconds off in the 100 meters. For perspective, in this year’s world championships, the gap between first and second places was .53 seconds in the 50s and .70 seconds in the 100s. No cigar for Deiparine in Kuala Lumpur, sure, but he was close.

Charly Suarez and Ian Clark Bautista, boxing
Suarez could have reached the light welterweight final in boxing if, according to national federation secretary-general Ed Picson, he had been given a fair shake. “I am really disappointed with the decision because you can see that hindi tumatama at sumusuntok ang kalaban pero nanalo,” said the top official of the Alliance of Boxing Association of the Philippines.

Bautista lost in the flyweight semifinals in a match Picson described as “it can go either way.” Had both Filipino boxers won and advanced to the finals, it would’ve been fair game for the two former SEA Games gold medalists.

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