Hanoi—The Philippines concluded its 31st Southeast Asian Games campaign at fourth place overall on Sunday, but the real heartbreaker was the fall of the mighty Gilas Pilipinas basketball team from its lofty perch in the region.
Unbeaten in the region for 31 years, the Filipino cagers fell to the G Indonesians, 81-85, in the gold-medal match in a shocking result that is expected to have repercussions on the Philippine team’s lineup, coaching staff and approach in its formation.
The Gilas Women’s Team did win the gold, although it lost its final game to the Malaysians, 93-96.
The Filipinas’ cause was helped along by Vietnam, which beat Malaysia, 69-65, late Saturday night, the Malaysians’ second defeat in five games.
With a 4-1 card, the Gilas women bagged the gold. Indonesia can match that record with a win over Singapore late Sunday, but the Filipinas will still prevail, having beaten the Indonesians, 93-77, Monday last week.
Backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee, the Filipinos finished the 12-day biennial games with 51 gold medals on top of 67 silver and 92 bronze medals.
The Philippines was the overall champion three years ago with a harvest of 149-117-121 three years ago.
Host Vietnam put the finishing touches to its dominant run to the overall crown with a 193-115-109 haul, followed by Thailand (84-96-126) and Indonesia (63-83-74). Singapore, which seized fourth overall from the Philippines last Friday, remained stuck at 47 golds with 45 silver and 67 bronze medals for fifth.
Also on Sunday, Tokyo Olympics bronze winner Eumir Marcial mauled his unheralded Timor Leste opponent to lead a final-day, four-gold medal haul.
Showing superior skills, Marcial made quick work of Delio Anzageci Mouzinho, forcing a referee-stopped contest victory in the first round of the middleweight finals, following through on big victories scored earlier by Ian Clark Bautista and Rogen Ladon at the Bac Ninh Stadium.
Ladon edged Thao Tran Van of Vietnam, 3-2, in the men’s 52kg division, while Bautista humbled Naing Latt of Myanmar, 5-0, in the men’s 57kg class.
The other Pinoy boxer in the finals, Tokyo Olympian Irish Magno, bowed to Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Tam in the women’s flyweight championship and bagged the silver, the same fate suffered by the esports team in its League of Legends finals showdown against Vietnam 0-3.
There were bright spots in these games, though, like the world-class Tokyo Olympians, who crushed the competition as they became the delegation’s saving grace, alongside a couple of newcomers showing their readiness to be next in line.
Hidilyn Diaz won her battle for the 55-kg gold in the weightlifting competition against a fellow Olympic gold medalist from Thailand, pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena retained his title with a new meet record of 5.46 meters and world vault champion Carlos Yulo captured 5 gymnastics gold medals to go with two silvers to lead the PH charge in these games.
Their efforts may have failed to fuel the country’s bid to place runner-up to host Vietnam, but it reaffirmed their status as world-class athletes, ready for another call of duty in the coming 2024 Paris Olympics and several other world championships.
“My journey toward Paris [Olympics] starts here,” said Diaz, whose 206-kg total lift in the finals foiled the challenge of the Rio Olympics’ gold medalist, who only had a 203. “That is the goal, to make it to the 2024 Olympics. I can still do it, my team still believes in me and I know I can still win the gold medal in Paris 2024.”
Obiena, Asia’s best pole vaulter, on the other hand, looks to reach his peak form in the World Athletics Championships to be held in Eugene, Oregon in the United States on July 15 to 24, 2022, while Yulo is expected to defend his title in the 51st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Liverpool, England. Both Obiena and Yulo, who failed to win a medal in the Tokyo Olympics, believe they are ripe for the 2024 Paris games.
“Paris is my goal right now, every competition is connected to 2024, my whole mindset is like the Olympics – what if today was the Olympics?” said Yulo.
Shining brightest among the newcomers was weightlifter Vanessa Sarno, the 18-year-old teenager who won the gold in the 71-kgs while smashing three SEA Games’ records along the way in the snatch (104), clean and jerk (135) and total lift (239).
Then, there is 16-year-ol Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy scholar Alex Eala, who collected three bronze medals – women’s singles, women’s team and mixed doubles with partner Treat Huey – at the Hanaka Sports and Service Center.