KUALA LUMPUR—The Philippine men’s poomsae team successfully defended its gold medal at the start of the taekwondo competition while Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe masterfully beat her foes one after another en route to the minted podium in the 29th Southeast Asian Games here.
The trio of Dustin Jacob Mella, Raphael Enrico Mella and Rodolfo Reyes, Jr. had a near-flawless execution to gain a total of 8.40 points and beat five other rivals at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in an event that the Nationals have been dominating since the Myanmar SEA Games in 2013.
Malaysia settled for the silver medal and Indonesia for the bronze medal.
In Judo, the 20—year-old Filipina-Japanese won all her victories in the female -63kg division, capping her mighty performance with an ippon win in just 36 seconds over Orapin Senatham of Thailand.
“It’s not easy. There was pressure on my part to win but I did my best for the country,” said Watanabe in Nihonggo, through her Cebuana mother, Irene.
Meanwhile, the women’s poomsae squad of Jocel Lyn Ninobla, Rinna Babanto and Juvenile Faye Crisostomo tallied 8.27 points to settle for bronze.
Reyes also won the bronze in men’s individual event.
Both Raphael and Dustin Mella were part of the team that won the gold in 2013 and 2015 SEA Games while Reyes joined the team only this year.
“All the hard work and sacrifices paid off. Lahat ng mga hirap naming sa training was worth it,” said the 22-year-old Dustin, a Business Economics student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman and eldest of four siblings.
“We trained almost half day daily plus yung workouts pa. Binigay lang naming ang best namin para sa bansa at naging patas naman ang mga judges,” said Raphael of the team that also won the bronze in the Korean Open last June.
Reyes was also overwhelmed with the victory, saying their four years together helped a lot.
They will just rest for a few days to start preparing for the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games this coming September 17-27 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Lady spikers bow to Thais
The Philippines absorbed yet another sorry loss, this time to reigning champion Thailand, 21-25, 17-25, 17-25, in the semifinals of the 29th Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball tournament Saturday at the MITEC Hall 11 here.
Jaja Santiago and Alyssa Valdez provided the spark, but the Nationals simply couldn’t handle the stronger, more experienced, Thai squad that is fresh from a successful stint in the FIVB World Grand Prix and the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship.
With the setback, the Nationals kissed their chances for gold medal goodbye and were relegated to the battle for bronze medal against Vietnam, which suffered a 25-18, 21-25, 27-29, 25-15, 13-15 setback to Indonesia in the other semifinal pairing.
Match is set on Sunday at 10 am with the Vietnamese coming in as heavy favorites after hammering a straight-set conquest of the Filipinos in the group stage Thursday.
The 21-year old Santiago delivered 10 kills, four aces and a block for 15 points while Valdez chipped in 10 markers for the Philippines, which gamely challenged 12-time SEA Games gold medalist Thailand in the first set before losing control in the second and third sets.
“Thailand is a veteran team that plays at a very high level,” said head coach Francis Vicente, noting the disparity in the error department where the Thais committed only 11 while the Philippines had 18.
“This game shows that our volleyball program still has a long way to go. We still have a lot to learn and need more international exposure.”
No less than Department of Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano was in attendance to extend his support and talk to the players after the match.
An avid volleyball supporter who was appointed as chairman of the organizing committee of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019, Cayetano vowed to support the training and international exposure of the national women’s volleyball team.
“This is just the start,” Cayetano told members of the team. “After this, you will just take a brief rest and start training again for other international competitions. I am behind you all the way.”
Team captain Pleumjit Thinkaow and Kokram Pimpichaya registered 13 markers apiece for Thailand, which also had more attacks, 43-34, and blocks, 7-3, than the Filipinos.