by Kristel Satumbaga
Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) chief Philip Juico is convinced his wards are on track of equaling the country’s best finish in athletics in the Southeast Asian Games slated late this year.
Having witnessed how the track bets performed in the just-concluded National Open in Ilagan, Isabela, Juico is believes winning 13 gold medals is doable.
More than 30 athletes have already qualified to the training pool after the three-day event with a mixture of elite bets and rising stars.
“I’m happy with what’s going on right now,” said Juico, adding that their goal is to win 13 gold medals – the same number of mints won at the 1983 Singapore SEAG.
This year’s National Open saw two records fall courtesy of Fil-American Natalie Uy in women’s pole vault and Ann Katherine Quitoy in girls javelin throw.
Uy debuted at the Open with 4.12m to eclipse the 11-year-old mark of 4.11m made by Deborah Samson while Quitoy heaved 44.71m to erase the 44.54m mark of Rosie Villarito made in 1998.
While more records were broken in the previous years, Juico said it was not cause for alarm as athletes are still not peaking in the season.
EJ Obiena, for instance, failed to surpass his 5.61m national mark with a 5.36m performance, but it already exceeded the SEAG mark of 5.35m made by Porranot Purahong of Thailand at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur edition.
“We don’t expect them to go all out here because it’s still a long season,” said Juico, adding that they are eyeing to send athletes at the Singapore Open and the Asian Athletics Championships next.
Elite athletes are also seeking slots in the World Relays and the World Championships.