SEA Games 2023: Veteran wrestler Maria Vergara comes out of retirement to win gold | Inquirer Sports

SEA Games 2023: Veteran wrestler Maria Vergara comes out of retirement to win gold

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 07:33 PM May 15, 2023

Philippines' Maria Cristina Villanueva (in red) competes against Cambodia's Vannak Sambat (in blue) in their women's -65kg wrestling round match during the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Phnom Penh on May 15, 2023.

Philippines’ Maria Cristina Villanueva (in red) competes against Cambodia’s Vannak Sambat (in blue) in their women’s -65kg wrestling round match during the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Phnom Penh on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP)

PHNOM PENH—Removed from active grappling for a long time, Maria Cristina Vergara returned to the mat on Monday and rewarded the Philippines and herself with a shiny gold medal at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.

Vergara brought down Cambodia’s Sambat Vannak by superiority in the women’s 65kg in freestyle wrestling for the country’s second gold in the sport following Jason Balabal’s victory in the men’s Greco Roman 87kg on Sunday.

Summoning her old form, Vergara took down the Cambodian grappler several times for a 12-2 win amid fighting in hostile territory.

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“Competing here in the SEA Games is a big sacrifice for me,’’ said Vergara, who is now part of the national team coaching staff and a last-minute replacement for an injured Filipino entry.

One of the finest grapplers Team Philippines ever produced, Vergara was a two-time SEA Games gold medalist during her prime, winning her weight class in the 2003 Vietnam and 2005 Manila editions of the 11-nation meet.

She retired right after the 2007 Games in Thailand before joining the national team coaching staff several years later.

“I stopped playing and was gone for more than 10 years, but I was able to execute the techniques that I used before,’’ added Vergara, who defeated Sopha Thammavong of Laos by superiority in the semifinals.

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Mother Christina Vergara (65 kg) and daughter Cathlyn Gee (59 kg) pose for a photo with POC President Abraham Tolentino after winning the gold and the bronze in wrestling freestyle wrestling.

Mother Christina Vergara (65 kg) and daughter Cathlyn Gee (59 kg) pose for a photo with POC President Abraham Tolentino after winning the gold and the bronze in wrestling freestyle wrestling. –TEAM PHILIPPINES POOL

Vergara’s 18-year-old daughter, Cathlyn Vergara, followed her mother to the podium after copping the bronze medal in the women’s freestyle 59kg along with Grace Loberanes (women’s freestyle 55kg) and Maribel Angana (women’s 53kg).

It was the first time a mother-daughter tandem won medals on the same day in the SEA Games.

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TAGS: SEA Games 2023

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