A PREVIEW of the 2015 Southeast Asian Games athletic competitions in Singapore looms in this year’s staging of the Philippine National Open Invitational Championships, set on March 19 to 22 at the San Luis Sports Complex in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
Some 1,500 top-rated athletes from Asia, including 80 to 90 from Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and host Philippines will pit guts and skills in the four-day National Open, which is making a return after a four-year hiatus.
“This will be a National Open like no other. Pang-SEA Games na ang level ng competition (The competition will be at the level of the SEA Games) because our regional neighbors are coming in and using this competition to select their athletes going to the Singapore SEA Games this June,” said Philip Ella Juico, president of the organizing Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA).
The athletic championships are being held in cooperation with host Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez.
“We expect the competitions to be tough and it will be a treat to the people of Laguna seeing these top athletes from the region go at it,” said Juico, who is also running for the vice presidency of the Asian Athletics Association in June.
Juico said he will be batting for sports cooperation among nations in the region, much like the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economic template in order to raise athletic standards.
A total of 23 gold medals will be at stake each in the men’s, women’s and junior competitions in the PH Open, while six others will be up for grabs in the masters’ category and the 19-under division.
The Philippine charge will be led by national Olympic program 19-year-old pole vaulter Ernest John Obien, who broke the national mark of 5.01 meters held by Edward Lasqueta for 22 years when he leaped 5.05 meters in July last year during a Patafa meet, before smashing it again to 5.20 meters to win the Singapore Open.
Obiena, son of former national athlete Emerson Obiena, will be joined by six other athletes who made the elite list by the committee composed of Juico and sports patron-businessman Jim Lafferty. They are Fil-Am hurdler Eric Cray, 15-year-old sprinter Zion Corrales-Nelson, middle-distance runner Archand Bagsit, decathlete Jesson Cid and former Asian long jump champion Marestella Torres.