IT was sweet victory indeed for the Philippines’ top sepak takraw athletes at the recent King’s Cup Sepak Takraw World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, where they beat two powerhouse countries en route to a gold-medal finish in the men’s doubles event.
After defeating Singapore, Australia, Chinese Taipei and Indonesia in succession in the elimination round, the Filipinos went up against heavy favorites, local team Thailand which has not tasted defeat in this event ever, not on their home turf, in a game watched live on nationwide television in Thailand.
Losing the first set 15-21, the Filipinos were on the verge of losing the game in the second set with a 17-20 deficit when a “miracle” happened as they rattled off 5 straight points behind Mark Joseph Gonzales to win 22-20 to even the match.
Then, they duplicated it in the deciding set before an unbelieving and stunned crowd, winning 21-19 to advance to the finals against another powerhouse team in Myanmar, the reigning SEA Games champion team.
And history repeated itself as the Filipinos, down again after the first set, 12-21, came back strongly in the next two to take the gold and create their own place in history. This time, it was Rheyjey Ortouste, who led the charge supported by Gonzales and the third member of the team, Jason Huerte.
“This did not happen overnight for us, it was five years in the making as we went through a lot of heartbreaks and frustrations. But even before the tournament started, I had a feeling that the boys will own the doubles’ this time. Last year, we placed third here, but this time, the boys underwent a one-month training in Thailand prior to the competition and that made the difference,” said Karen Tanchanco-Caballero, President of the Philippine Association of Sepak Takraw and who also scored her own victory by getting elected as Vice president of the Asian Takraw Federation.
Caballero is hoping that there will be more recognition for the sport and more people will support the team.
“I am already talking with some possible sponsors, including PLDT. I want to bring the team to the Europe championship next year, then go for the gold in the SEA Games,” said Caballero.
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