PH eyeing to surpass 2007's 41 golds in 2015 SEA Games
MANILA, Philippines – After a forgettable campaign at the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar, the Philippines is under huge pressure to bounce back strong this year when the biennial meet returns in Singapore.
Before the watchful eyes of a critical nation, the Philippines’ 459-strong contingent will aim to surpass the country’s 41-gold medal haul from the 2007 SEAG in Thailand.
“That’s what we’re aiming for, we think we can surpass that 41 golds. That will be our goal,” SEA Games chief of mission for the Philippines Julian Camacho told Rappler.
The Philippines brought home a small stack of 29 gold, 34 silver and 37 bronze medals from Myanmar, marking that 7th place finish their worst SEAG performance. The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) inevitably came under fire for the result, particularly for the decision to send a “lean and mean” contingent of just 208 athletes.
One of the most obvious changes, therefore, in this 2015 edition is the close to 500 athletes the PSC and POC sent to Singapore.
Camacho is confident this year’s delegation can meet the goal.
“Sa nakikita ko naman medyo maganda ang preparation natin sa SEA Games na ito kasi since last year pa pinapahanda na natin,” he said. “Siguro (Perhaps) it would be much better than last SEA Games at Myanmar.”
(What we’re seeing is we had pretty good preparation for this SEA Games since we started last year.)
Filipino athletes may have more chances of winning medals not just with their huge number, but also because they will be competing in 35 out of the 36 sports, the exception being field hockey.
The strongest bet, according to Camacho, is the athletics team. With a total of 46 events, the contingent is banking on athletics for much of this year’s medal haul, including an ambitious goal of 10 golds.
“At this point I think it’s athletics kasi marami tayong Fil-Ams na dumating (we have many Fil-Ams who arrived),” said Camacho.
While swimming, the most medal-rich sport with 51 medals up for grabs according to Camacho, remains a weak point for the smaller of the region’s two archipelagos.
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“We are just keeping our fingers crossed kasi last SEA Games hindi masyado maganda ang performance nila (they didn’t perform very well). But they promised this time they are going to do better than the previous SEA Games.”
Boxing is another sport where the Philippines is expected to perform despite the absence of gold medal bets Mark Barriga and Charly Suarez.
Both London Olympian and 2014 Asian Games bronze medalist Barriga and Incheon Asiad silver medalist Suarez are excluded from the final roster due to conflict of schedule with the ABP World Series of Boxing after they joined international boxing federation AIBA. Barriga has also been reported to be out 3 months after injuring his right hand in training.
“Ang pangako nila it (Barriga’s and Suarez’s absence) won’t affect the team,” Camacho said. “Malalakas naman lagi pinapadala natin na boxers. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed na makauwi tayo ng maraming medalya galing sa boxing.”
(They promised it won’t affect the team. We always send competitive boxers. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that we can bring home plenty of medals from boxing.)
A lot of hype also surrounds the women’s volleyball team comprised of collegiate and professional stars such as Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago and Aby Maraño. The team, head coached by Roger Gorayeb, is cramming their training owing to the players’ school and league commitments.
Sending a large contingent does not assure success. But thorough preparation puts athletes in a better position for it.
Camacho claimed the Philippine contingent is ready and prepared with just 6 days to go before the June 5 opening.
He said National Sports Associations began preparations in mid-2014 and kicked into full gear at the start of the year. Some teams traveled abroad for trainings and joined various competitions for exposure.
The wushu team, also favored to take home medals after claiming 2 silvers and 1 bronze in the 2014 Asiad and a total of 8 medals in the 2013 SEAG, trained in China for 3 months before returning just last May 20.
Camacho said PSC and POC officials were hands on in monitoring athletes’ trainings, visiting at least once a week.
“Tinitignan lang namin kung talagang nagtre-training sila,” he said. “Monitoring lang kung talagang nagtre-training sila kasi nag-submit sila ng training schedule. Binibigyan namin sila ng konting encouragement.”
(We just make sure that they are training. We’re just monitoring if they truly are training because they submitted a training schedule. We also give them some encouragement.)
The pressure is on for Filipino athletes to deliver, though Camacho has seen dedication and determination among this year’s contingent, who were sent off with a party last Wednesday, May 27 at the PhilSports Arena.
“Sabi ko sa mga atleta (I told the athletes), you are not fighting for yourself, you are not fighting for us, you are fighting for our country.So do your best and give your best,” Camacho said.
“Nakikita ko naman ang mga sakrapisyo nila na (I see their sacrifices when) they train in the morning, in the afternoon and at night.So I always praise the athletes for doing their best. Wala akong masabi sa mga atleta natin (I can’t say anything bad about our athletes).” – Rappler.com