PALEMBANG, Indonesia – Sterling performances in bigger sporting stages by some of its members are fanning Team Philippines’ hopes for a successful campaign in the 26th Southeast Asian Games that formally start here Friday.
A newly-crowned world champion in wushu’s Dembert Arcita, renowned cue artists Efren “Bata” Reyes, Francisco “Django” Bustamante, Dennis Orcullo and Rubilen Amit and a slew of Asian and Asian Games champions are just some of the names headlining the Philippine contingent.
Throw in some returning champions in the biennial sports conclave, and delegation officials here are optimistic the Filipinos can easily surpass the 38 gold medals the country won in Laos 2009.
Some events in billiards have been scrapped, making a repeat of the Reyes-Bustamante partnership that netted them the World Cup title a couple of years back impossible.
Reyes hopes to make up through the 1-cushion and 3-cushion carom events and ditto for Bustamante in the 8-ball and 9-ball pool singles.
Another twinkill in the 8-ball and 9-ball pool singles will jack the SEA Games gold medal harvest of former World 10-ball title-holder Amit to five.
Boxing, which delivered a five-gold haul in Laos, is bannered by Guangzhou Asian Games flyweight winner Rey Saludar, as well as returning winners Bill Vicera, Charly Suarez, Josie Gabuco and Alice Kate Aparri.
The wushu artists should hog their fair share of the limelight since they are coming off a highly fruitful stint in the world championships in Ankara, Turkey last month.
Leading the way for the experts in the Chinese martial arts is the 26-year-old Arcita, who is entered in the same 52kg category of sanda which he dominated in Turkey.
Also in the 14-athlete wushu squad are Marianne Mariano, a silver medalist in Turkey who is here to defend her 54kg gold, and Rhea May Rifani, who could have landed a better medal than a 48kg bronze in Turkey if not for a knee injury.
“I’m confident we will meet our target, considering that our athletes stayed in shape after the world championships,” said wushu federation president Julian Camacho, who is also thedeputy chef de mission here assigned in Jakarta and West Java.
Camacho is also nurturing high hopes for worlds bronze medalists Benjie Rivera (60kgs) and Mark Eddiva (65 kgs) and veteran Edward Folayang, who has moved down to 70 kgs, to make the prediction of “a minimum of four and a maximum of six” gold medals come true.
Record-setting hammer thrower Arniel Ferrera, long jumper Marestella Torres and Eduardo Buenavista lead the tracksters out to at least duplicate their seven golds two years ago.
The 2009 World Women’s Poomsae champion team of Francesca Camille Alarilla, Ma. Carla Janice Lagman and Rani Ann Ortega try to reprise their gold-winning performance in Laos while bannering the taekwondo squad also boasting of fellow defending champion Alexander Briones (over 87kgs) and Asian championships veteran Japoy Lizardo.
Bowling should prove to be another gold mine for the Filipinos as reigning Asian Games singles champion Biboy Rivera heads the RP keglers who also feature Frederick Ong and Liza Clutario.
Wrestling, which delivered three rather unexpected but very welcome three golds in Laos, is foremost among those who could pull off surprises, along with karatedo, judo, muay thai and pencat silat.
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