Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said that he is pushing for the inclusion of arnis, kickboxing and obstacle course racing in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“If I had to be there (Vietnam) most of the time to plead our case, then I will do it,” said Tolentino.
The three sports disciplines delivered a combined 23 golds in the SEA Games for the Philippines, with arnis being the most productive with a haul of 14 golds, 4 silvers, and 2 bronze medals.
OCR had a 6-3-1 gold-silver-bronze harvest, while kickboxing delivered 3-2-1. Dancesports, which netted 10 of the 12 golds at stake, will also be considered.
“Vietnam won 2 golds in dancesport, so posibleng maisama ‘yan. Ipu-push din natin ‘yan,” said Tolentino, who is credited for the 56-sport Philippine SEA Games.
But he had to literally fight for the stacked program that was met with opposition some 18 months ago when the hosting of the biennial games was still on the drawing board.
“I knew that the best way to emerge overall champion is to use this formula. And now, we all know that it worked,” he said.
The process was tedious and Tolentino had to go one-on-one with national sports association officials in order for him to determine what exactly are the events that would deliver the medals.
“It was a long and meticulous process, talking with NSA presidents and secretary generals, asking for their honest impressions on which events must be included and which shouldn’t,” he said. “It’s about deleting those events where Filipino athletes won’t potentially win the golds.”
In the SEA Games, a host country has the privilege to determine which sports—and events—would be on the competition program—although these have to secure the SEA Games Federation approval.
The current POC goes down in SEA Games and Philippine sports story as the most successful following the 387-medal haul by Team Philippines that included 149 gold, 118 silver, and 120 bronze medals.
So dominant was Team Philippines that Filipino athletes left their opponents eating dust. Vietnam was a far second with 98 gold, 85 silver and 105 bronzes, followed by Thailand with 92-123-103 (gold-silver-bronze), Indonesia 72-84-11 and Malaysia 55-58-71.
The home-court advantage, according to Tolentino, played a major role for the victory with the local fans cheering wildly for each and every Filipino who competed in the Games.
“It was one big, big effort. Winning the overall championship was not solely on the athletes’ shoulders, but each and every Filipino,” Tolentino said.
The competitions went on smoothly—with Typhoon Tisoy momentarily stalling the schedules—with the writing on the wall showing the Filipino athlete has made his mark.
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