Philippine fighting strong at fourth

Pool masters, netters, weightlifter provide boost

HANOI – Team Philippines pocketed two gold medals in billiards and one each in tennis and weightlifting to dislodge Singapore in fourth overall with one full day of action left in the 31st Southeast Asian Games here.

Rubilen Amit, perhaps the best female cue artist ever to grace the SEA Games, defeated compatriot Chezka Centeno in the finals of the 10-ball singles, 7-5, at the packed Ha Dong Gymnasium here.

Then Carlo Biado, the 2021 US Open champion and 2017 World Games gold medalist, was victorious in another all-Filipino final, beating newly crowned 9-ball singles gold medalist Johann Chua, 9-3.

Over at the Hanaka Sports Center, the tennis pair of Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales dethroned countrymen Jeson Patrombon and Francis Casey Alcantara as the meet’s men’s doubles champions, 6-1, 6-4.

But the day’s loudest cheers came for weightlifter Vanessa Sarno, who continued to live up to expectations as probably the next Hidilyn Diaz.

The big-boned 18-year-old from Bohol registered new SEA Games records to win the gold in the women’s 71kg. She had a 104 in snatch, 135 in clean and jerk and 239 total to beat her foe from Thailand.

Sarno’s 135 in clean and jerk erased the old SEAG record of 123kg, and her 239 total surpassed the old mark of 237kg.

Khaipandung Siriyakorn of Thailand tried her best and got the silver (103-120-223) while Anggi Restu of Indonesia clinched the bronze with a 92-120-212.

A star is born

“A star is born!” screamed Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella inside the small auditorium, confident that Sarno will be the next big thing in the sport.

Sarno said she is just following the footsteps of the 31-year-old Diaz, the Tokyo Olympics gold medalist and winner in the 55kg class three days ago here.

“Sobrang ganda po ng preparation ko sa SEA Games. Alam ko po na malalampasan ko ang record. Gusto ko po mag-qualify sa Paris Olympics,” said Sarno, teary-eyed during the awarding ceremony.

“Para sa family ko po ito,” she said.

Earlier, Erleen Ando almost ran out of time for her final lift in the clean and jerk and snared the silver medal in the women’s 64kg with an effort of 103-120-223. Vietnamese “superwoman” Thi Hong Thanh Pham won the gold (104-126-230)

Battle for fourth

The four gold medals on a wet, cloudy day gave Team Philippines a total of 47 gold, 65 silver and 98 bronze medals, just enough to overtake Singapore (47-44-65) in the exciting battle for fourth.

With only one day left and 22 gold medals at stake in 16 sports, Vietnam has a mind-boggling 164 gold, 97 silver and 100 bronze medals. Thailand is in second with 68-78-110 and Indonesia in third with 57-77-70.

“Baka makuha pa ang fourth. If we can win 10 gold medals heading to the final day we can surpass 50 gold medals,” said Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino.

Expected to provide those medals are flyweight Rogen Ladon, women’s flyweight Iris Magno, featherweight Ian Clark Bautista and middleweight Eumir Marcial in boxing, and the men’s and women’s Gilas team.

If they get all the luck to go with all the hard work, Team Philippines may just wind up in fourth and a step away from its projected target of a podium finish after winning the overall crown in 2019 with 149-117-121.

The bigger picture

Philippine Sports Commission chairman William Ramirez sent a message from Manila, saying Filipino athletes and officials must look at the “bigger picture” as the Games come to a close.

“We must remind everyone that our taking part in the Vietnam SEA Games has a bearing in our build-up to our competing in bigger international competitions such as the Asian Games and Olympics,” Ramirez said.

Chef-de-mission Ramon Fernandez was on hand to watch Sarno compete, and cheered like he was watching the finals in basketball, his favorite sport.

“Kaya papa natin. Marami lang nakawala but we can still finish fourth,” said Fernandez.

Amit is pool queen

The 40-year-old Amit couldn’t be denied her second gold after ruling the 9-ball singles earlier this week. In total, she now has 10 gold medals in the SEA Games, her playground since 2005.

Amit, winner of the World 10-Ball crown in 2009 and 2013, is undeniably the “Pool Queen” in the region.

“Natutuwa ako dahil Philippines vs Philippines sa finals. Walang pressure na mapunta sa ibang bansa ang gold,” she said after beating Centeno, a dear friend when off the table, for the gold.

It was a fitting climax to the Philippine billiards team’s performance that had the legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes drawing the biggest crowd and the loudest cheers in the venue despite a bronze in the 1-cushion carom.

Overall, the billiards team bagged four golds, four silvers and two bronzes, an improvement from its medal haul of 4-3-5 in the 2019 SEAG.

The Philippine women’s football team bound for the Women’s FIFA World Cup came from behind to beat Myanmar, 2-1, for the bronze medal, ending the country’s medal drought since winning the bronze in the 1985 SEA Games.

The chess team delivered medals until the end with Woman Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna and FIDE Master Shania Mae Mendoza winning the silver in the women’s blitz; judoka Daryl John Mercado in men’s -55kg; the men’s team of IM Jan Emmanuel Garcia and IM Daniel Quizon the bronze in the team blitz; April Joy La Madrid in Muay’s women combat 60kg; Rudzma Abubakar in Muay’s women combat 48kg; and Leah Jhane Lopez in the women’s -48kg in judo.Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines president Ed Picson said they “hoped for better results” but couldn’t get the nod of the judges as 2019 world champion and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Nesthy Petecio dropped a painful decision against Vietnamese lightweight Tran Thi Linh Friday evening.

Light-flyweight Josie Gabuco, the 2012 world champion and five-time SEA Games gold medalist, also lost her bout to Thailand’s Chutmahat Raksat in questionable fashion. Others who fell in the semis and will settle for the bronze are featherweight Marjon Pianar, featherweight Riza Pasuit and light-welterweight James Palicte.

In the finals, Ladon meets Tran Van Thao of Vietnam, Magno faces Nguyen Thi Tam also from Vietnam, Bautista tackles Naing Latt from Myanmar and Marcial tests Delio Mouzeinho of Timor Leste.

“I’d like to think na nadala lang ang mga judges sa sigawan ng (fans) but that’s still unacceptable. The judges should know better. Yung 5-0 sa second round ni Josie was ridiculous,” he said.

“But still, all our boxers will go home with medals,” Picson added.

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