Even after an amazing and historic showing in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games, the expectations for the Philippine delagation to be sent to the Doha Asian Games was still within the realm of the usual. Despite the dominating performance of the Filipino athletes in their home turf, there was no disputing the fact that the Asian Games is an extension of the East Asian Games. The might triumvirate of China, South Korea and Japan – world sporting powers in their own rite — dominated the games yet again by cornering a lion’s share of the gold medals at stake (273 of the 428 golds).
The 2002 Busan Asiad was a welcome surprise to a lot of people. The Pinoys were able to snare Asian Games gold in three disciplines – billiards, equestrian and bowling. The team was also able to take home a handsome total of 26 medals over all.
In Doha, the Philippines turned the corner and registered the best performance by the contigent in 32 years. The delegation started out really slow with barely a couple of medals to show for after the first week of competition, but the Pinoys delivered down the homestretch to salvage national pride and set history.
There was high hopes for the sport of Taekwondo in the lead up to the Doha Asian Games. It was a gallant effort for the Pinoy jins. They did provide us our first taste of Doha glory and no sport outside boxing produced close to the five-medal haul.
Unfortunately, the story for Doha is best depicted by the picture on the left. It was all systems go until the Pinoys stumbled against the mighty Koreans. Jin Toni Rivero is seen being lifted off the mat by the explosive kick by the Korean aggressor during the finals of the 67 kg women’s division. Five medals is nothing to be ashamed of especially if the team as a whole showed the best of the region what the Pinoy and Pinay jins are made of. Of the five medals, two were silver – won by Tsohmlee Go and Toni Rivero.
The three hard bronzes were brought home by Manuel Rivero (Toni’s brother), Kathleen Alora and Veronica Domingo. The Philippine contingent finished 8th in the event (fifth in terms of total medals) tied with Vietnam. South Korea dominated the event winning 9 of the available 16 medals.
The expectations for cue sports would’ve been a lot higher had the big guns of the pool table elected to suit up for flag and country again in 2006. Unfortunately, Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante and Alex Pagulayan all opted to skip the Doha Games to honor other commitments.
That left the Philippine campaign with the upstart Jeffrey de Luna and veteran Antonio Gabica (left) to carry the fight for the once proud Pinoy cue artists. Gabica failed to win the country’s first gold in Doha during the finals of the 8-ball, but he wouldn’t let the chance slip again as he beat de Luna in the All-Filipino square off for the 9-ball finals in billiards. With that victory, Gabica secured the Philippines’ first gold medal and assured that the traumatic shut out of the Tehran Asian Games will not be revisited for at least another four more years. The Philippines finished with one gold and two silver medals in cue sports – good enough for fourth behind China, Chinese Taipei and Japan.
If hopes were high for Taekwondo and Billiards, expectations couldn’t be lower for the sport of Tennis. This is by no means a knock against the gutsy netters of the Philippine Team. History is playing against them. No Filipino has won an Asian Games medal in Tennis in the past 40 years. It has been a while.
But of course, we didn’t have Cecil Mamiit all those years. Despite playing two matches a day, the fiery Mamiit managed to upset his more favored opponents in the Men’s singles and with Eric Taino‘s help, the Pinoys surged through in the Men’s doubles as well. It was great to witness the never-say-die Pinoys persevere against the best in the region. In the end, the two combined for the two bronze medals – two medals that finally put a halt to the tennis medal drought.
After twelve years of longing for a gold medal in the boxing events, the RP pugs finally delivered the goods as the two Pinoys who made the finals won in convincing fashion to bag the top prize. Flyweight Violito Payla outclassed Somjit Jongjohor from regional rival Thailand to coast to a 31:15 decision through four rounds. Joan Tipon made easy work of South Korea’s Han Soon Chul to win the bantamweight finals, 21:10.
Godfrey Castro and Genebert Basadre were successful until their anticlimactic defeat in the semifinals. The two wound up with bronze medals. The two-gold, two-bronze haul was the best since the 1994 Hiroshima Games were in the Philippines won no less than three golds – one by Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco. The Philippines finish with as many golds as China (good for third – just a bronze behind China) with Uzbekistan as the country with the more impressive performance of 3 golds, 1 silver and 2 bronzes.
Wushu was the last realistic hope for gold for the Philippines and it didn’t disappoint. Two sanshou fighters made it to the finals. As a sidelight Rene Catalan‘s opponent was Vietnam’s last hope at Asiad gold as well. A win by Philippines would secure its spot at 18th place. In pure dominant form, Catalan delivered and brought home the gold after two punishing rounds.
Compatriot Eduard Folayang was not as fortunate though. Folayang was visibly struggling with a shoulder injury during the duration of the finals as he was tossed off the mat a couple of times. Despite hurting real hard, it was inspiring to see a wounded warrior just bite the bullet and take one last stand for flag and country.
The Philippines ended up with a gold and silver medal for Wushu – good for second behind China who bagged seven gold medals.
check our boy’s eye. ouch. you gotta be proud to have someone like him fighting for your country.
Michael Eric Bibat came out of nowhere to snare the bronze medal in the men’s singles event. After a so-so 70 and 72 for the first two days of competition, Bibat surged near the top of the standings when he shot a 5-under-par 67 for round three. He held on to third spot as he finished with a steady 70 for the final round to give him a solid total of -9 for the four rounds.
Bibat only trailed Pan Chen Tsung (the 15 year old phenom from Taiwan) and Kim Kyung Tae from golf superpower South Korea. The bronze glistened like gold according to Bibat and rightfully so. Golf rarely produces medals for the Philippines and it’s such an amazing feat to come back the way he did as the rest of his teammates faltered. Among all the medals in Doha, his was probably among the sweetest.
Â Ma. Marna Pabillore won the country’s only silver medal in Karate for the Kumite event while Noel Espinosa managed to snag the bronze via repechage in the Kata.
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