By REY C. LACHICA
HANGZHOU, China – Wushu ace Jones Llabres Inso emerged as the saving grace for Team Philippines on Monday, Sept. 25, after winning the bronze medal in the men’s Taijiquan & Taijijian All-Round category even as top medal prospects fell one after another in the 19th Asian Games here.
The late after afternoon heroics of Inso lifted the gloom that earlier befell on the national athletes in various fronts, that for a while, it looked like its going to be “Monday blues” for all of them.
Inso got 9.746 in Taijiquan and 9.740 in Taijijian for 19.486 to beat out Korean Yu Wonhee for the bronze in the event won, as expected, by Chinese Gao Haonan on 19.666. Hong Kong’sa Hui Tak Yan Samuel took the silver (19.493).
The Philippines has now two bronze medals counting the one produced by King Patrick Perez in the men’s indiviodual poomsae on Sunday.
Tennis princess Alex Eala also provided the “magic balm” that can be used by others to soothe their heartaches and disappointments away with a masterful win.
Skateboarder Jojit Francisco almost doubled the count for the day but a freak accident did him in, missing the podium by the slimmest of margins after finishing fourth.
Toughened up after playing in Great Britain, Japan and Guangzhou in her buildup to the quadrennial showpiece, the 18-year-old charmer blanked Sarah Ibrahim Khan of Pakistan, 6-0, 6-0, in a virtuoso display of tennis at the city’s grand Olympic Sports Stadium.
Eala was on fire right from the start as she let her Pakistani rival chase the ball from one corner to the other with pin-point shots on several occasions on the way to a 39-minute victory.
Eala mixed her shots so well that she punished her 32-year-old rival with her screaming forehand winners but sometimes caught her off-guard with deft drop shots.
“It was a great game as I was saying, it was good for confidence and I think it came with a great attitude and great mindset,” said Eala, who advanced to the round of 16.
Eala’s brilliance early in the day, however, failed to lift spirits of battle-tested Olympians, foremost of them was 2018 Indonesia Games silver medal winner Kiyomi Watanabe.
Overall, it was practically quiet on almost all fronts.
The slide caused Francisco to slide to fourth.
“Sayang, na-slide siya, silver na sana,” said a member of the PH delegation.
Francisco finished with 53.58 while third placer Japanese Kensuhe Sasaoka allied 83.66. Chinese Chen Ye won the gold in 84.41, beating another Japanese bet Yuro Nagahara (84.00)
Watanabe suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Japanese Miku Takaichi in the women’s -63kg class.
What was disappointing was that Watanabe lost via an ippon in just 12 seconds of match that underscored superiority of her rival.
Four other judokas followed Watanabe’s way as Keisei Nakano, Rena Furukawa, John Ferrer and Ryoko Salinas .
The day actually started ominously for Team after women’s 3×3 team pulled out of the tournament after its request for replacement of players was also likewise thumbed down – the same thing happened earlier for Gilas Pilipinas.
Also bowing out of medal contention was taekwondo jin and Tokyo Games veteran Kurt Barbosa who lost to Uzbek warrior Omonjon Otajonov in the first round of their men’s -58 kg duel by superiority.
Despite his height disadvantage, Barbosa rallied furiously to tie match at 14-all in the second round of their exciting contest but the Uzbek was declared the winner due to technicality.
“Alam mo naman si Kurt walang kinatatakutan kahit matangkad at mahaba ang kalaban nya,” said taekwondo official Rocky Samson. “Due to seperiority, he lost.”
It also happened to Veronica Garces in the women’s -49 class as she lost to the taller third-seeded Mobina Nematzadeh in the round-of-16. She hurdled her opening match, beating Tajikistan’s Shirinmohi Mirshakarzoda.
In shooting, Amparo Acuna came close to beating the PH record of 618.8 points in the qualification round of the women’s 10m ridle event but still failed to make it to the final round. Her RP mark is 622.2 which she registered in the Asian Championship last March.
Filipino gymnasts also tumbled out of the competitions as Miguel Besana and Ace de Leon fared badly in the men’s vault and floor exercise, respectively.
The tandem of Francis Alcantara and Ruben Gonzales were also booted out after losing to their Thai rivals late Sunday, 2-1.