By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Hostilities in 17 sports, including the centerpiece athletics, heat up Saturday, May 6, with Filipino athletes determined to pull off surprise wins in various fronts of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in various venues here.
The Philippines, as usual, is pinning its hopes on its marathoners, cyclists and aquathletes to deliver the early mints and sustain the country’s hot start in the biennial meet after tallying two gold, two silver and three bronze medals prior to the formal opening on Friday, May 5.
Host Cambodia formally declared the Games open in an elaborate opening ceremony on Friday, May 5, at the newly built Morodok Techo Stadium in its capital city where thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and fans from 11 member countries gathered.
Apart from the three sports mentioned, Team PH is looking great in obstacle events as they are already assured of winning two gold medals after four athletes advanced to the gold-medal round in the men’s and women’s individual set at 8 a.m. at the Chroy Changvar Convention Center Car Park.
Battling for the gold are Jaymark Rodelas and Popoy Pascua, as well as Precious Cabuya and Kaizen dela Serna.
Christine Hallasgo spearheads the four-member marathon team when the race blasts off at 6 p.m. in Siem Reap before the backdrop of the majestic Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s famous landmark.
Hallasgo guns for the gold medal this time after being denied in the previous edition held in Vietnam last year where she settled for the silver medal.
Joining Hallasgo in the PH team’s campaign are Ruffa Sorongon, Richard Salaño and Arlan Arbois.
Andrew Kim Remolino, Josh Ramos, Raven Faith Alcoseba and Heart Quiambao also aim for the gold medals in men’s and women’s individual aquathlon set to start at 6:30 a.m. at the Kep Town Beach in Kep City, before its mixed relay aquathlon team of Kira Ellis, Erica Burgos, Iñaki Lorbes and Juan Francisco Baniqued compete at 2:30 p.m.
The Kulen Mountains in Siem Riep, meanwhile, will serve as the venue for the mountain bike race in cycling where women’s and men’s Olympic cross country events fire off at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. respectively.
Other sports which open on the same day are basketball 3×3, boxing, e-sports, golf, karate, kun khmer, vovinam, pencak silat, sepak takraw, petanque, soft tennis, tennis, and demonstration sport teqball.
Meanwhile, action continues in chess ouk chaktrong, cricket, football, jiu jitsu, kun bokator, sailing and indoor volleyball.
The jiu jitsu and kun bokator teams try to sustain their impressive start after delivering the country’s first two gold medals courtesy of Kaila Napolis and Angel Derla, respectively.
Annie Ramirez, Myron Mangubat and Michael Tiu go into action hoping to duplicate Napolis’ gold-medal showing last Thursday in the women’s ne-waza GI 52kg category.
Ramirez sees action in the women’s ne-waza NOGI 57kg, class Mangubat competes in the men’s ne-waza GI 62kg division, and Tiu clashes in the men’s ne-waza GI 69kg class.
Napolis’ golden finish, the country’s first mint in this year’s games, means the jiu jitsu team needs just one more victory to match its two-gold medal haul in the Vietnam Games last year.
Ramirez won the gold in the 62kg class of the last games.