After nearly three months of training, the national kickboxing team departs for Hanoi, Vietnam today (Monday), charged and ready to do do battle in the 31st Southeast Asian Games,
The 12-man squad, which trained under a bubble set-up at in the highlands of La Trinidad, Benguet, will fly via Thai Airways with a brief stopover in Bangkok.
Coach Mark Sangiao of the vaunted Team Lakay implemented the training program of the crew with martial arts background, led by former ONE Championship titlist Honorio Banario.
Kickboxing is one of the few sports taking place early.
Competition starts on May 6 with a one-day break during the biennial meet’s opening ceremony in May 12 and the finals happening the next day.
The team hopes to improve on its second-place finish to Vietnam in the 2019 Philippines SEA Games, where it bagged 3 golds, 2 silvers and a bronze medal.
Bidding for a back-to-back golden finish are Jean Clause Saclag and Gina Iniong Araos, while Jomar Balangui and Renalyn Dacquel hope to improve their silver in 2019 to a top podium finish this time.
Other members of the team are Carlos Alvarez, Kurt Lubrica, Darryl Chulipaz, Emmanuel Cantores, Claudine Veloso, Gretel de Paz and Zephania Ngaya.
Banario, who once reigned as ONE featherweight champion, is making a return to the combat scene.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in many countries, the national kickboxers failed to get exposure and training abroad.
They instead trained with the rest of the national team training pool and vovinam athletes in La Trinidad, Benguet at the Team Lakay Central Gym in partnership with the Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas, headed by president Sen. Francis Tolentino and secretary-general Atty. Wharton Chan.