ASHGABAT—Wrestler Alvin Lobreguito had a sure bronze medal before he set out to his first battle in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games on Saturday.
Due to lack of entries, the 25-year-old Filipino grappler gave the Philippines its first medal even if he lost his semifinal encounter at the Main Indoor Arena of the sprawling Ashgabat Olympic Stadium.
Lobreguito lost by superiority to Yakupnazar Yakubow of Turkmenistan, 4-0, in the 75-kg men’s freestyle event where there were only four entries.
Yakubow pinned the Filipino to the ground early in the first round, en route to the technical advantage tally and on to the gold-medal match later in the day.
Lobreguito, a Southeast Asian and Australasian wrestling tournament champion, will join fellow bronze medalist Faridun Qurbonov of Tajikistan after the latter lost his semifinal face-off with Allanur Gocow of host Turkmenistan.
Gocow has forced an all-Turkmenistan finale with Yakubow following a convincing 4-0 win over Qurbonov before a wildly cheering crowd at the Main Indoor Arena of the sprawling Ashgabat Olympic Stadium.
While Lobreguito is set to stand proudly at the medal podium, fellow Pinoy wrestlers Jhonny Morte, Noemi Tener and Grace Loberanes fell to their respective opponents in the quarterfinals.
With the bronze medal hanging around his neck, Lobreguito is bound to receive a cash incentive of P400,000 from the government.
A gold medal in the 62-country Aimag is worth P2 million while a silver and bronze will fetch P1 million and P400,000, respectively.
It was a painful first day of action for the national team as three other Filipino grapplers dropped their respective assignments.
Neomi Tener lost to Ambreen Masih of Pakistan, 4-1, in the 58kg, Grace Loberanes suffered a 5-0 beating from Lacyn Badaglyyewa of Turkmenistan, 5-0, in 52kg, and Johnny Morte fell to Turkman Döwletgeldi Berdiyew, 5-0, in the 68kg.
The 10 Jiu-Jitsu fighters, however, are set to fight Monday.
They are three-time International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation World Championship winner Meggie Ochoa, two-time Asian Beach Games gold medalist Annie Ramirez, Hansel Terence Co, Gian Dee, Mark Lim, Golbert Ambao, Apryl Eppinger, Lou-Ann Jindani and Carolina Pajaron.
In the last AIMAG in Incheon, South Korea back in 2013, the country won one gold medal and two bronze medals.
Indoor Tennis action will start Sunday as Filipino bets Jason Patrombon, Anna Clarice Patrimonio and Khim Iglupas open their campaign, as well as the five-man Muay Thai team.
The 19-year-old Iglupas and the 23-year-old Patrimonio, daughter of former PBA four-time MVP Alvin Patrimonio, will compete together in the women’s singles and will team up in the double’s.
Iglupas and Patrombon will play together in the mixed event.
The preliminary round of Indoor Tennis is set on Sept. 17 to 22, while the medal round will begin on the 23rd. Their respective opening round games will be known after the drawing of lots scheduled Saturday evening.
Meantime, Muay Thai athletes are Philip Delarmino, Ryan Jakiri, Ariel Lampacan, Meri Ann Geli Bulaong and Carrisa Tarapen.
The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday night at the sprawling Ashgabat Olympic Stadium with 116 Filipino athletes competing in 17 sports comprising the Philippine delegation.
The AIMAG, now on its fifth edition, is fast earning its reputation as a tough competition among Asian nations, especially in non-olympic events of martial arts.
Even Phl chef de mission Monsour del Rosario acknowledged the fact that AIMAG is not definitely not a walk in the park or in the same level of the SEA Games.
“Mas mabigat ang laban dito, but because more martial arts sports are played here, may laban pa rin tayong maganda, “ said Del Rosario, himself a former Asian champion in Olympian in taekwondo.
But it needs time before Philippines can feel the groove in AIMAG, a quadrennial competition like the Asian Games and Olympics.
The Philippines is sending a token delegates for new sports like sambo and kickboxing.
For kickboxing, there was not even an active kickboxing organization to talk about. To select the players, martial arts gyms got their acts together and formed an alliance to hold a pre-AIMAG tournament to help select the players for the battle in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
However, not all winners were given green light to join the fight in Ashgabat.
“Dalawa lang ang pumasa sa selection committee. Mas malakas sana ang tsansa natin,” said coach Rennie Ross, who accompanied only two fighters in AIMAG.
They are Carlo Jacildo, who is seeing action in the 69kgs division and Robin Catalan in the 53 kg.
“Gusto ko talagang manalo dahil ang sarap pala ng pakiramadam na I represent ang Pilipinas,” said Jacildo a former amateur boxer. “Itataya ko na lahat para manalo.”
Catalan, meanwhile is a former world muay thai champion and current MMA pro fighter, who joined and topped the pre-AIMAG tournament, earning him a slot in the national team.
“Handing-handa na, “ said the veteran fighter,” who trimmed seven kilos to make himself fit and ready to rumble.”
The two kickboxers, will join star national athletes like Hidilyn Diaz, the 2016 Rio Olympian who won the silver medal in the women’s weightlifting.
Also with them are the returning power couple from Cebu, Gerald Jamili and Cherry Clarice Parcon, who will be back to defend their crown in dancesport’s jive event they won in 2013 edition in Incheon, South Korea.
The pair also bagged a bronze medal in another event while Amit took the bronze in the women’s 10 ball event. Also in the delegation is chess grandmaster Eugene Torre and billiards legend Efren “Bata” Reyes.
“Nakaka pangilabot dito, kasama namin ang mga matitinding atleta,” said Ross.
Among the events to be competed are chess, futsal, tennis, muay thai, kickboxing, sambo, kurash, jiu jitsu, bowling, cycling (track), indoor athletics, weightlifting (Powerlifting), taekwondo (WTF), dance sport, belt wrestling, wrestling (FS/Greco Roman), at cue sport (Billiards and Snooker).
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