The Philippine charge generated four gold medals on Saturday, while other Filipino athletes salvaged two silver and five bronze medals in the 26th Southeast Asian Games being held here, Jakarta and West Java.
Marestella Torres, pushing herself to the limits to extend a career which obtained the first SEA Games feather in 2005, cleared 6.71m in the third of six attempts in long jump at the Jakabaring Sports City for the gold medal and erased a Games’ standard she herself posted in the 2009 edition of the SEAG in Laos.
In Jakarta, Rani Ann Ortega, Francesca Camille Alarilla and Ma. Carla Janice Lagman obliterated their frustrations at the taekwondo world championships in Russia last month, edging a newly-crowned world titlist team from Vietnam by a mere half point in a much talked about head-to-head in women’s poomsae.
Filipino coach Rocky Samson surmised that other countries did not bother to field an entry because of the class of the Philippine and Vietnam trios.
“Wala yatang nag-enter kasi pinag-uusapan na ang paghaharap ng Philippines at Vietnam,” said Samson, adding that it was more a battle for national pride than just the gold medal.
At sundown, Camille Manalo secured the third gold medal for the Philippines despite a wrong entry in the official 2011 SEA Games website which indicated that she won only a bronze.
“Someone made a mistake, we cannot be wrong because we hold the gold medal and our national anthem was played in the awarding rites,” said Samson as she escorted the UAAP Season 73 athlete of the year back to the hotel after beating to a pulp Vietnamese Thanh Thao Nguyen, 8-3 in the finale of the under 62 kgs division.
In the last event for the day, Rene Herrera retained the 3,000-meter steeplechase crown by clocking 8 mins, 52.31 seconds to beat Indonesia’s Mohamad A Q (8:55.99) and Vietnam’s Nguyen Dang Duc Ba (8:57.88).
In the case of Torres, there was no confusion and she was a class by herself.
“Hindi ko inaasahan dahil bago nagpunta dito mga 6.30m something lang ang tinatalon ko,” Torres said of her wonder leap that re-set the norm from 6.68m. Indonesian Maria Londa claimed silver (6.47m) while newcomer Filipina Katherine Khay Santos had bronze (6.25m).
Other contributors to the cause of improving the country’s fifth place finish from the 2009 games are mountain bike rider Joey Barba, the poomsae mixed pair of Vidal Marvin Gabriel and Shaneen Ched Sia, and karate jins Orencio James de los Santos and Erica Samonte.
Defying the slippery downhill 1.5 km. course in West Java, Barba (2:32.44) managed silver behind Indonesian Pornomo (2:31.45), while Gabriel and Sia pulled off a surprise runner-up finish to Vietnam counterparts for RP’s second silver.
Young and promising, Gabriel also notched a bronze in men’s singles poomsae. De los Santos and Samonte each won a bronze in the individual kata and 50kg kumite, respectively.
Late in the evening, Loralie Sermona raised the total number of bronzes to five by placing third in the women’s hammer throw at Jakabaring.
Nearly fifty percent of athletes competing for a medal won, even though the Philippines had entries in only 21 disciplines out of the 43 that offered gold medals.
In the medal picture, Indonesia moved in blazing pace taking 22 of the 48 gold medals for first place, Singapore was second with eight, and Thailand and Vietnam both have six. The Philippines was running fifth with three golds and Malaysia sixth with two.
“Not so bad but I know we can be better,” said deputy chief of mission Romeo Magat.
Filipino athletes also moved forward in other disciplines, such as the men’s badminton team, who are now in the quarterfinal round after whipping Myanmar, 3-1, in Jakarta; the Blu Girls of softball who shellacked Thailand, 10-1; and English billiards bet Luis Saberdo who dumped Indonesian Adhi Brajafalachi, 3-1.
Swimmers Banjo Borja (400 IM and 200 breast), Jose Joaquin Gonzales (400IM), Jasmine Alkhaldi (200 free) and Dhil Anderson Lee (50 butterfly) all qualified for the finals of their events on Saturday night.
Ageless Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla failed to defend his 25m standard pistol title, winding up sixth, while worse were Emerito Concepcion (12th) and Jayson Valdez (11th) in the 10m air rifle event also at the Jakabaring shooting range.
Perhaps the most bitter of the results for Team Philippines is the highly controversial loss of jin Jeffrey Figueroa in the under 74 kgs class against an Indonesian, booed not cheered by the motley crowd from different competing member countries who felt the Filipino was the dominant fighter.
“Breaks,” was all Samson could politely comment on the Figueroa verdict.
The men’s softball team was no match for Indonesia, 2-4, Felix Taoro was equally inefficient against Nay Thway Oo of Myanmar in English billiards, 0-3, while Racquel Luzarez did not figure in the medal race of individual women’s kata of karate-do.