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PH eats dust of SEA neighbors in Asiad

JAKARTA – The final medal stand­ings in the 2018 Asian Games mir­rored the Philippines’ true status in Southeast Asia.

Despite improving on its previous finish of 22nd overall in Incheon four years ago with just one gold medal and winning four here, the Philippines continues to trail its SEA rivals despite winding up 19th over­all as the Games formally comes to an end Sunday at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

Even the Philippine Olympic Com­mittee (POC) leadership admits that the country is playing catch-up as Indonesia took fourth (31-24-43), Thailand 12th (11-16-46), 14th Malaysia (7-13-16), 17th Vietnam 4-16-18) and 18th Singapore (4-4-24). Cambodia came after the Phil­ippines at 24th place (2-0-1).

“I realize that despite the improved performance, there are so many things that we still need to do,” said POC president Ricky Vargas just be­fore he flew out Sunday morning.

“By all indications 2018 Asian Games was a success for Team Philippines, (the) total medal count improved, gold count quadrupled, ranking went up from 22nd to 19th,” said Vargas, noting that the target of 15th place was not realized but acceptable still.

The Philippines ended its cam­paign with a tally of 4-2-15 with the top finishes provided by weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, skateboarder Margie Didal, golfer Yuka Saso and the women’s golf team.

The silvers were from Fil-Jap­anese judoka Kiyome Watanabe and boxer Rogen Ladon while the 15 bronze output came from tae­kwondo, pencak silat, jiu-jitsu, golf, wushu, cycling (BMX) and karate.

But Vargas believes there is still a lot of room for improvement.

“It is obvious that grassroots development and talent identifica­tion have to be ramped up. The emergence of young talent in these Games point to the fact that fresh young faces with boundless en­ergy.”

Vargas laments that the Philip­pines didn’t make a dent in aquatics and athletics.

“Then there are medal-rich sports which we need to focus on, such as aquatics and athletics. Our neigh­boring countries are killing us in these arenas.”

The Philippines fielded 227 ath­letes in the 16-day sportsfest and Vargas insists that proper training and caring for their needs will be key in future competitions.

“We have to keep them motivat­ed, inspired and focused and shield them from politics. (If that hap­pens) they can and will deliver,” he added. (Nick Giongco)