PH’s 19th-place finish in Asiad ‘acceptable’ but goal was 15th
JAKARTA—Team Philippines has four female athletes to thank for its improved performance in the 18th Asian Games that ended on Sunday in the same grand manner that opened the 45-day meet.
But work continues for Filipino athletes as the Southeast Asian Games, which the country will host, is happening in 14 months.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz achieved as expected, bagging the country’s first gold three days after the Games officially began, before the Filipinos’ collective spirits were revived by the troika of golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and LK Go.
The twin golds made up for the failure of the men’s basketball team to enter the medal round after losing 82-91 to perennial tormentor South Korea in the quarterfinals.
Then out of nowhere, Margielyn Didal, a street kid from Cebu, ruled the first ever Asiad skateboard event to likewise become a multimillionaire.
Didal, a 19-year-old daughter of a carpenter and street food vendor, will pocket at least P6 million like Saso, who also topped individual play, and Diaz. She was the Philippine flag-bearer in the closing ceremonies.
She shared the distinction with Jordan Clarkson, the Filipino-American player of Cleveland in the National Basketball Association, who carried the flag during the opening parade.
Diaz ruled the 53-kilogram bracket on the day the Filipino cagers lost to eventual champion China, 80-82, that set them up against the Koreans.
Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe lost to a Japanese world champion to settle for silver in the women’s -63 kg class and boxer Rogen Ladon tearfully yielded the gold in men’s flyweight after sustaining a bad cut above the left eye.
The country ended up with a medal count of four-gold, two-silver and 15-bronze medals and finished 19th overall, a slight improvement from 22nd place four years ago in Incheon, South Korea, where it tallied 1-3-11.
“There are so many things that we still need to do,” Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas said Sunday after the mixed relay team in triathlon finished sixth overall at Jakabaring Sports Complex in Palembang province.
“By all indications, the 18th Asian Games was a success for the Philippines—total medal count improved, gold count quadrupled,” Vargas said. “But the target was 15th place. But it’s (19th) acceptable.”
Host Indonesia wound up as the best Southeast Asian region, finishing fourth with a 31-24-43 count, while Thailand was 12th with a haul of 11-16-46.
The Indonesians got the bulk of their gold medals from their national martial art of pencak silat, 14 in total.
Malaysia tallied 7-13-16 for 14th place while Vietnam and Singapore also had four golds, but were a couple of rungs higher as the Vietnamese bagged 16 silvers and the Singaporeans four.
“To be honest, no,” Vargas said when asked if the Philippines, judging from its performance here, could win the overall championship in next year’s SEA Games. “To be the overall champion is difficult, but to finish in the top three is possible. It will all depend on how we manage the events.”
Athletics staked 48 gold medals and there were 44 events in swimming but the Philippines didn’t land a single medal in both sports.
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