By REY C. LACHICA
HANGZHOU, China – A minimum of four gold medals for Team Philippines.
Judging the physical conditions and recent performances of the country’s top representatives in the 19th Asian Games here, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino believes Team PH is still capable of matching its four-gold haul during the 2018 edition held in Palembang, Indonesia.
“Ganun parin. Our target remains the same,” said Tolentino when asked about his gold medal prediction on Friday, Sept. 22, a day before official opening of the quadrennial event that supposed to be held last year but was delayed due to Covid pandemic.
“Minimun of four golds OK na yun,” he added when further pressed.
Apart from winning four golds, Team PH – numbering 272 – also collected 2 silvers and 15 bronzes.
This time, a total of 396 Filipino athletes will be chasing for fame and glory in the event dangling a total of 481 golds in 40 sports and will last till Oct. 8.
He’s no rocket scientist, but Tolentino, also the mayor of Tagaytay City, said pole vault ace EJ Obiena is his top gold medal prospect.
That was a no-brainer, though.
Obiena is coming off impressive showing in Europe where he made it to the podium 14 times, including two title wins in Germany.
More than that, Obiena, who is now ranked world No. 2 in the world, made it to the elite 6.0-meter club and placed second to Olympic and world champion Armand Duplantis of Sweden.
Aside from Obiena, also with good chances to win gold medals – that is worth P3 million each – are boxers Eumir Marcial, Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio.
The three are all Tokyo Games medalists with Petecio and Paalam winning silvers and Marcial a bronze.
This marks Petecio’s third Asian Games appearance and she’s hoping that lady luck will finally smile on her this time.
“Laging quarters lang, sana mas maganda ang resulta ngayon,” said the 31-year-old Petecio of Davao.
Petecio admitted she’s no longer getting any younger anymore so she intends to go all-out in all her bouts in the hope of getting financial rewards, which she said, will form part of her retirement fund.
Marcial has been fighting as a pro in the US under the promotion of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao but he has an unfinished mission as an amateur – winning an Olympic gold.
This year’s edition is a qualifier to the Paris Olympics which is Marcial’s ultimate dream.
“Baka bumawi ang mga lalaki natin,” said Tolentino.
Also high in Tolentino’s list as possible gold winners are the witty players of Esports. He even mentioned golfer Clyde Mondilla as another projected gold medal winner although the pride of Bukidnon is facing a tall order.
For one, he will be up against touring pros from Thailand, Japan and even the host nation.
She did not mention Hidilyn Diaz knowing full well that the country’s first Olympic gold medal winner struggled in the recent World Champion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after moving up to a heavier weight category.
Diaz won her gold medal in the Olympics in the 55kg category but it was scrapped by the organizers, forcing her to compete in the 59kg which is not to her liking.
Margielyn Didal’s name was also not mentioned, perhaps due to physical condition due to a left ankle injury she suffered late last year.