Uphill battle | Inquirer Sports

Uphill battle

Every Philippine stint in international competitions is a fight of the underdog—including this Asian Games
By: - Reporter / @MusongINQ
/ 05:35 AM August 19, 2018

JAKARTA—No matter where the Philippines goes to compete, even in the lowly Southeast Asian Games, there is one label it cannot shed off.

Underdogs.

And yet, Team Philippines has always found ways to triumph in the face of the most difficult odds, even when those odds are rammed down its throat by hazardous politicking back home.

The beauty of it? Filipino athletes try so hard every time.

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“There’s no athlete in his right mind who would go into a competition dreaming to lose,” Philippine Sports Commission Chair Butch Ramirez told the Inquirer when asked what to expect from the 272-strong PH contingent in the 18th Asian Games here.

“We lack the facilities, we lack the money compared to the other countries,” he said. “But we have so much talent among the Filipinos and their fighting hearts are just enormous. What we can do is just inspire them.”

James Yap, the two-time PBA MVP who, at 36, is in his second tour of duty with the Philippine cage team, also knows the competition he and his fellow Gilas members face. But, like what Ramirez said, Yap is undaunted.

“Bilog ang bola,” Yap said on Saturday as the Filipinos gear up for a clash with China on Tuesday in a bid to avoid a quarterfinal clash with another formidable foe in South Korea.

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“Dehado tayo [against China],” Yap said. “But we will fight it out to the very end.”

Alyssa Valdez, the enigmatic women’s volleyball star, knows there’s little else they can use as edge against world-class opposition.

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“That’s all that we have, our fighting hearts,” Valdez said as she relishes the chance to shock the continent’s heavyweights.

Hidilyn Diaz won a weightlifting silver in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics two years ago, and that should have been enough for her to be labeled as one of the favorites here.

But she has to contend with the reigning world champion Sopita Tanasan of Thailand in the 53kg weight category. Making things tougher is that the silver and bronze medal numbers of the 2014 Asiad are still 15 kg more than Diaz’ Olympic effort.

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Yet Diaz promises “to fight for the country,” like every Filipino athlete always does when donning the national colors.

TAGS: Southeast Asian Games, Team Philippines

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