KUALA LUMPUR – Another heartbreaking finish looms for Team Philippines with three days left before the 29th Southeast Asian Games comes to a close at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
Save for a surprise victory in equestrian, no Filipino athlete emerged with a gold medal, putting tremendous pressure on Olympian Kirstie Elaine Alora and Francis Agojo to deliver strong finishing kicks in taekwondo and a four-man Philippine squad in the wushu finals on Tuesday.
John Colin Syquia, an obscure newcomer from Florida, was the lone bright spot on Monday as he won the individual showjumping crown to pluck the country’s 23rd gold medal and its first mint in equestrian since 2011 in Palembang.
Riding Adventure E, Syquia was tied with five other riders in the first two rounds before blazing in the jump off to clock a commanding 37.63 seconds over Malaysians Sharmini Christina Ratnasingham (41.30 seconds) and Dato’ Seri Mahamad Fathil Qabi Ambak (41.66 seconds).
“This (gold medal) is very special because this is the first time for me to compete in the SEA Games,” said the 46-year-old Quezon City-born professional equestrian and horse-dealer, who participates in shows and derbies in Wellington, Florida.
The Philippines did not only miss its initial projection of 50 gold medals, but is also headed to what could be its worst finish in terms of gold-medal production the past 18 years.
The Philippines emerged with 29 gold medals in the past two editions in Myanmar in 2013 and Singapore in 2015.
Prior to that, its worst finish was in the Brunei SEA Games in 1999 where it managed to bring home only 20 mints.
But the Brunei Games, where only 233 gold medals were at stake, was a small affair compared with this year’s biennial meet, where a total of 404 gold medals from 38 sports are being disputed.
Malaysia remains on top of the medal tally after shattering the century mark with 102 gold medals, while Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore are way behind with 58, 54 and 48 mints, respectively.
Indonesia, Asian Games host next year, is eight gold medals ahead of the Philippines with 31, making it impossible for the Philippines to steal the fifth spot.
The Philippines also has 30 silver and 55 bronze medals.
World champion Gaylord Coveta of sailing and Olympian Nestor Colonia of weightlifting suffered heart-breaking setbacks, while the entire muay squad was wiped out in the championship battles.
Coveta, the 27-year-old sailor who was crowned as world champion in 2012, settled for silver medal in the men’s windsurfing RS One event behind Olympian Natthaphong Phonoppharat of Thailand, while Illham Wahab of Indonesia bagged the silver medal.
A hurting Colonia also suffered a setback as he finished fifth out of six competitors in the men’s 56 kg division weightlifting competition.
He lifted a meager 113 kg in the snatch and 140 kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 254 kg to land fifth out of six entries.
Thach Kim Tuan, the Youth Olympics gold medalist and world record-holder in the 56 kg, lifted 120 kg in the snatch and 149 kg in clean and jerk for a total of 260 kg to retain the crown he won in the Myanmar SEA Games in 2013.
Surahmat Bin Suwoto Wuoy of Indonesia captured the bronze medal with 119 kg in snatch and 148 kg in clean and jerk for a total of 267 kg, while Witoon Mingmoon of Thailand grabbed the bronze medal with 110 kg in snatch and 149 kg in clean and jerk for a total of 259 kg.
Muay fighter Ryan Jafiri also kissed his gold medal chances goodbye as he was knocked out of contention by a Cambodian legend in the 63.5 kg class muay competition.
After drawing a bye in the five-man field, Jafiri was caught by a ramming front kick and a thunderous punch from Khun Dima of Cambodia that sent him crashing with 1:11 left.
Jafiri was the fifth Filipino muay fighter to bid goodbye in the 11-nation conclave.
He, however, would still go home with a bronze medal.
“His foe was a muay legend in Cambodia,” said head coach Billy Amumno.
Already out of contention were Jonathan Polosan, Jay Harold Gregorio, Khen Johnson Marques and Philip Delarmino.