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Still no gold for Team PH

KUALA LUMPUR – The 29th Southeast Asian Games come off the wraps Saturday with Malaysia showing early strength to challenge Thailand for the overall championship.

Malaysia captured three of four gold medals on offer Friday as the Philippines ended the day without a medal following heartbreaking losses in archery.

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On the eve of the opening ceremonies at the National Stadium, the Malaysians dominated open water swimming and archery to hike their total to seven gold, three silver and three bronze medals.

Singapore won the other gold disputed in the duets technical routine where Ruth Desiree Abiera and Allyssa Salvador fared poorly.

The Philippines’ medal tally remains at one silver and two bronzes, good for seventh.

Olympian Kirstie Elaine Alora will carry the Philippine flag during the traditional parade of athletes and officials.
The Filipinos will wear blue shirts and white pants.

The delegation will be led by chief of mission Cynthia Carrion who is sticking to her 50-gold medal projection.

“The athletes are really in an up mood,” said Carrion. “I’ve been to a lot of SEA Games and this is the first time I saw the athletes in an up mood. Don’t you feel it? They really want to win something. They’re really fighting hard to put the Philippines up there.”

Putrajaya Lake, however, served as graveyard for Filipinos who competed in open water swimming.

Roy Canete, also a member of the national water polo team, suffered cramps and failed to finish while compatriot Mico Anota finished last in the men’s race

In the distaff side, Melissa Gray Courtney and Erica Kristy Lukang wound up eighth and ninth, respectively.

Malaysians Kevin Yeap and Heidi Gan won the men’s and women’s titles.

In archery, Malaysians Mohd Juwaidi Mazuki and Fatin Nurfatehah Mat Salleh topped the mixed team event at the expense of Ye Min Swe and Aung Ngeain.

The bronze went to Nguyen Tien Cuong and Chau Kieu Oanh of Vietnam which frustrated Paul Marton dela Cruz and Amaya Cojuangco, 159-156.

It was a sorry loss for the Philippines which lost to Myanmar in the semifinals by the slimmest of margins. Both squads ended regulation tied at 154-all.

In the shootoff, each tandem hit a 10 and 8, the winner determined by which player had an arrow nearer to the bull’s eye.

Cojuangco tried to fight off tears at the end.

“Walang istorya kasi natalo. Sorry po,” said Cojuangco who won the silver in women’s individual compound in Singapore.

Malaysia won three of four compound events, the men’s individual going to Indonesia.

Action in the recurve events starts on Sunday with the holding of the men’s and individual contests.

Four gold medals will be disputed before the opening ceremonies.

In netball, Singapore trounced the Nationals, 96-11.

Olympian Mary Joy Tabal and Jeson Oyco Agravante set off at 6 a.m. for the marathon events.

All eyes will be on Tabal who promised to win the gold which eluded her two years ago.

The two other golds are at stake in women’s water polo and sepak takraw.

Also on tap are matches in netball and rugby 7s.

The Philippine Volcanoes, the defending champions, make their debut against Indonesia at 10:22 a.m. at the MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya, about 20 kilometers from here.

The Volcanoes then play Cambodia at 12:38 p.m. and Malaysia at 3:16 p.m.

The women’s rugby team, on the other hand, faces Malaysia at 11:50 a.m., Laos at 2:28 p.m. and Indonesia at 4:44 p.m.

Meanwhile, athletes and officials continued to pour with the fancied men’s basketball team set to arrive early evening.

The women’s volleyball squad will arrive on Saturday at 3 p.m.