SINGAPORE – Call it the calm before the storm.
A day after the 28th Singapore Southeast Asian Games formally opened amid dazzling rites at the Singapore National Stadium, the Filipino campaigners are poised to go on an all-out assault on several fronts in pursuit of the country’s first gold medal in this 11-nation meet on Saturday, May 6.
And it just might come early in the morning when Filipina triathletes Claire Adorna and Kim Mangrobang swing into action at the East Coast Park, a nine-minute drive from the Changi International Airport.
Fresh from separate intensive training camps overseas, Adorna and Mangroban were seventh and ninth, respectively, in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and were best performers among the Southeast Asian countries that took part in the meet.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia said on Friday, June 5, that what he was hoping for was a “trigger” that could spark the country’s gold medal drive.
“We are looking for a trigger that can serve as an inspiration for our other athletes who are here,” noted Garcia, who nearly witnessed the feat last Thursday when Harlene Raguin reached the finals of the women’s individual epee in fencing.
But Raguin, a silver medalist in the same event at the 2007 Thailand SEA Games, proved to be a disappointment as she lost steam and wound up the bridesmaid once again.
Filipinos also booked another silver that day in veteran tablenetter Richard Gonzales, who was dog-tired after a 7-set marathon match in the semis and fell to 3-time defending SEA Games champion Gao Ning, who delighted the hometown crowd with his fourth gold in the men’s singles.
Despite the setbacks, Garcia said the country was still doing well with his tally of 3 silvers and one bronze medal that placed it in fifth spot in the overall standings at the close of action on Thursday.
Garnering most of their golds from table tennis, synchronized swimming and netball, host Singapore was expectedly in first place with 7 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze medals, followed by Vietnam (4-1-8) while Thailand was third (2-3-7).
The PSC official was confident that national athletes would finally score a breakthrough on Saturday, possibly from wushu and triathlon.
“Although I don’t have the background in triathlon, I talked to triathlon chief Tom Carrasco, who was confident that his athletes would be able to deliver,” Garcia bared. “Wushu, on the other hand, has always consistently given us golds in the past.”
National team chef de mission Julian Camacho, who is also the wushu secretary general, was bullish about his own sport and said that one to two golds could come at the Expo Sports Hall.
“We are strong in the dulian (double weapons),” said Camacho, who was being given periodic reports by his coaches and technical officials in the meet.
Spearheading the men’s squad Daniel Parantac, who took a bronze medal in the Incheon Asian Games last year, and will be conspiring with Norlence Adlee Catolico and John Keithley Chan, while the woman’s squad is made up of Karisa Kris Chan and Natasha Enriquez.
Women’s triathlon coach Ani de de leon, on the other hand, that either female triathletes Claire Adorna or Kim Mangrobang, who trained for three months intensively in separate camps aboard, could reward the Philippines its first gold medal early Saturday morning at the East Coast Park.
Deputy chef de mission and gymnastics Cynthia Carrion said she was banking on male gymnast Reyland Capellan to come out strong in the men’s individual vault and floor exercise on Monday.
The national men’s and women’s rugby sevens squads are also seeing action, with the Volcanoes keen on capturing the gold in the two-day event after settling for runner-up honors when the event was last held in the 2007 SEA Games in Nakhon Ratchashima, Thailand. (READ: Why Philippine Rugby matters)