The Philippine rowing team will try to equal if not surpass the three golds it won in the Southeast Asian Games three years ago, which the country hosted.
Philippine Rowing Association president Patrick Gregorio said the Filipino paddlers are all in high spirits, confident of doing well in the coming Hanoi edition of the biennial meet despite having to race on borrowed boats.
“Three golds in Subic. It will be tougher in Vietnam, but hopefully Cris Nievarez can retain his gold medal, and si Joanie Delgaco will also compete. She also won gold in Subic,” said the rowing federation head in Tuesday’s virtual session of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.
“We’ve been training very hard. No letup. That’s what we’ve been doing ever since,” Gregorio added.
The Filipino paddlers have kept an optimistic mindset notwithstanding the fact they won’t be bringing in their own boats in the Vietnamese province of Bac Ninh – almost a two-hour drive from Hanoi – due to what Gregorio referred to as logistical issue.
“Since last month, the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) already informed us the logistics provider cannot bring it kasi sa container van siya sinasakay, and buti sana kung sa Ho Chi Minh lang ito, but it’s two hours outside of Hanoi. So very difficult ang logistics’ process,” said Gregorio.
“No one’s fault, it is how it is. In terms of logistics, hindi naman maliit na equipment na dadalhin mo lang ‘yan. These are very big boats,” he added. “We did everything to send our boats, but talagang, logistically, the timing is (not right). Not even two months (is enough) to bring in there.”
The Vietnam rowing federation though, assured the Philippines and the other countries which also won’t be bringing their own equipment that it will lend them competition boats to be used during the event from May 9 to 14 at the Thuy Nguyen Boat Racing Center.
Nonetheless, the coaching staff, led by Ed Maerina and foreign counterpart Shukhrat Ganiev of Uzbekistan, have high hopes on the chances of the 16-man squad led by Nievarez, who represented the country in the Tokyo Olympics, and Delgaco.
The team concluded its training camp at the La Mesa dam on Monday and will leave for Hanoi on May 6.
“We will do our best na maibigay ‘yung kanilang best performance to haul medals. We don’t know what’s the color of the medals, basta meron tayong tatlong kulay diyan na makukuha natin,” said Maerina in the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corporation, MILO, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, Unilever, Amelie Hotel Manila, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
Nievarez, gold winner in the lightweight single sculls three years ago, will definitely be under the radar of the other competing countries as he leads the nine-man team together with CJ Jasmin, Zuriel Sumintac, Van Maxilom, Athens Tolentino, Edgar Ilas, Roque Abala, Joachim De Jesus, and EJ Obana.
Delgaco, meanwhile, will be at the forefront of the women’s side along with Juliann Sha, Alyssa Go, Feiza Lenton, Amelyn Pagulayan, Mireille Qua, and Kristine Paraon.
Along with Melcah Jen Caballero, Delgaco won the gold in the women’s lightweight double sculls.
Caballero, who also bagged the gold in the women’s lightweight single sculls, has since retired from the sport.
Maerina sees the men’s pair of Ilas and Sumintac as a strong bet for a medal, along with the men’s four division of Ilas, Sumintac, Abala, and De Jesus, to go with the women’s pair of Go and Sha.
A total of 16 events in rowing will be competed in the Hanoi Games.