PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ALMOST all Southeast Asian Games powerhouses have made it to the medal scoreboard, except for the reigning and defending champion.
Seven days into the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, the Philippines has yet to win a gold medal, and worse, has not even crack the medal standings with exactly a week to go before the meet comes to a close.
On account of their winning the overall championship of the 23rd SEA Games in Manila last year, the Filipinos depart for the oil-rich capital with high hopes of equaling if not surpassing the three gold medals the country won in the last edition of the Asiad in Busan, South Korea four years ago.
So far, they haven’t been up to the task.
From swimming, tennis to bowling, disaster had struck Team Philippines, unable to come at par with the world-class level of competition in the quadrennial tournament.
In contrast, the Filipinos’ Southeast Asian neighbors have been doing a yeoman’s job.
Leading the pack is perennial regional champion Thailand, which the country edged out for the overall SEA Games title a year ago.
The Thais had already accounted for three gold medals courtesy of the sepak takraw men’s team, the women’s 50-meter rifle event in shooting and the women’s 63 kg. event in weightlifting to rank seventh out of the 49 countries competing.
Incidentally, Thailand also happens to be the host of next year’s edition of the SEA Games.
After the Thais, Malaysia comes next with two gold medals behind the men’s trios team and the women’s singles in bowling to occupy ninth place while Singapore ( bowling, women’s doubles), Vietnam (women’s sepak takraw) and Indonesia (bowling, men’s singles) had gold medal each.
Heck, even Myanmar has beaten the Philippines to the draw in the medal tally, winning a pair of silvers in the 69 kg (women’s) and 75 kg (women’s) events in weightlifting.
But all is not lost for the Filipino delegation, according to Chef de Mission William ‘Butch’ Ramirez.
Saved for the setbacks in bowling and billiards, two among the handful of sports where local officials are expecting a gold or medal to come, Ramirez said combat events have yet to go full throttle in the Asiad.
Ramirez, also chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), predicted the country would win at least five gold medals, the bulk of which, he said, may come from combat sports such as boxing, wushu, taekwondo and karate.
The jins began their campaign yesterday, the karatekas start seeing action on Dec. 12th while the wushu artists won’t plunge into action until Dec. 14.
The highly-touted boxing team is actually on course of giving the country its first medal as Violito Payla and newcomer Anthony Marcial were battling for semifinal berths late last night.
“There’s really no need to panic. Some of the disciplines where we could win medals haven’t started yet,” Ramirez said.
In the Busan edition of the Asiad, Team Philippines didn’t break through the medal tally until the sixth day of competition behind the rowing team of Alvin Amposta and Nestor Cordova, the individual trap and men’s trap led by Jethro Dionisio and bowler Liza Clutario in the women’s singles.
The gold medals finally trickled in after that through men’s doubles in bowling, men’s doubles in billiards’ 9-ball and equestrian.
The only time the country went home without a gold in the Asiad came during the 1974 hosting in Tehran, Iran.
Bowling, one of a handful of sports where local officials are expecting a gold or medal to come, bombed out in the singles, doubles and trios competitions of both the men and women’s events.