Moreno bags Youth Olympic gold for PH
NANJING—Finally, a gold medal in the Youth Olympics.
Luis Gabriel Moreno brought joy to Filipinos around the world when he teamed up with China’s Li Jiaman to strike gold Sunday in the archery competition of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games here.
Cheered on by the predominantly Chinese crowd, Moreno and Li upended the pair of Germany’s Cynthia Freywald and Muhamad Zarif Syahir Zolkepeli of Malaysia with ease, 6-0, in the finals of the mixed international team event at Fangshan Archery Field.
“We didn’t expect any medal so I’m really proud and I hope I become a symbol of inspiration to all Filipino athletes out there,” said Moreno, the country’s flag-bearer in these Games for the world’s finest young athletes.
Moreno, who was booted out by a Brazilian in the Olympic round of the men’s recurve Saturday, and Li, No. 3 in the women’s recurve, ranked a lowly 24th in the draw for the event.
The Filipino nearly missed contending for the elusive gold after his dad, Philippine archery federation head Fred Moreno, took him out of the venue to have lunch.
Father and son arrived seven minutes before Moreno and Li’s quarterfinal match against Japan’s Hiroki Muto and Azerbaijan’s Sughrakhanim Mugabilzada.
“We were stuck in a taxi for two hours and I was already crying and my dad was panicking,” said the high school senior from La Salle Green Hills. “I’m very grateful that I arrived here in time.”
Though it wasn’t accomplished in the regular Summer Olympic Games, Moreno’s golden feat somehow quenched a long medal drought for the country in the Olympics.
Boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco was the country’s last Olympic medalist with a silver in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Bianca Roxas-Chua Gotuaco, in tandem with Prennoy Murong of Bangladesh, earlier failed to advance to the round-of-16.
“Winning a gold medal isn’t impossible and we proved it here,” said Philippine chef de mission Jonne Go.
Moreno’s pairing with Li began to provide the Philippines a glimmer of hope when they toppled Slovakia’s Boris Balaz and Venezuela’s Verona Villegas, 5-3, in the round-of-16.
As the stakes went higher, Moreno and Li became more determined, easily hurdling the quarterfinals with a 5-1 thrashing of the top-ranked Hiroki Muto of Japan and Sughrakhanim Mugabilzada of Azerbaijan.
The victory surge continued for the PH-China combination in the semifinals as Moreno and Li subdued Eric Peters of Canada and Mirjam Tuokkola of Finland, 5-1, to book a spot in the finals and assure themselves of a silver.
“This is the Olympics, we’re here together—the Philippines and China cheering for one another,” said Philippine Olympic Committee secretary general Steve Hontiveros. “This is the beauty of sports.”
In the gold-medal match, where each pair shot three sets of two arrows in three frames, Moreno and Li scored 38-38-37 to beat Freywald and Zolkepeli who turned in 37-35-33.
“We encouraged each other and focused on every arrow,” said Li.
Moreno was the last man standing in the seven-athlete Filipino contingent after gymnast Ava Lorein Verdeflor and trackster Zion Rose Nelson closed out their campaign without landing a medal Saturday night.
The 15-year-old Verdeflor placed sixth out of eight finalists with 12.33 points in the uneven bars of women’s artistic gymnastics at Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium.
“It was very stressful,” said Verdeflor, who also competed well in the all-around event and finished 11th overall. “But I’ll definitely compete for the Philippines in other international events.”
Over at the track stadium, Nelson clocked a personal best 55.32 seconds and checked in fourth in the women’s 400-meter Finals B. Yana Kachur of Ukraine ruled Finals B in 54.48 seconds.
Other Filipinos who earlier bowed out of the competition were triathlete Vicky Deldio, swimmer Roxanne Yu and shooter Celdon Jude Arellano.
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