MANILA – Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino on Tuesday sees tough battle ahead for the Philippine contingent as Cambodia hosts the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in less than four months.
“Frankly, kinakabahan ako because of the formula na ginawa ng host country (Frankly, I’m worried because of the formula made by the host country),” said Tolentino during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the East Ocean Palace Restaurant in Pasay City.
“Medyo mabigat ang ginawa (It’s a bit abrupt),” Tolentino added, referring to Cambodia’s decision to include events that are practically alien to the other countries and exclude events where Cambodians have slim chances of winning.
For a country of less than 17 million people, Cambodia has lined up 608 events in 49 sports, far bigger than the 530 events in 56 sports in the Manila edition in 2019 and the 526 events in 40 sports in Hanoi last year.
But it does not mean that the Philippines, this early, is giving up the fight for the biennial event scheduled from May 5 to 17.
Tolentino said the POC will still make sure that the Philippines will be represented well in as many events in Cambodia and hope to match or improve on its fourth-place finish in Hanoi in May 2022.
“Salihan natin lahat ng events sa Cambodia (We will join all events in Cambodia),” he said during the forum presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Philippine Sports Commission, POC, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“Kailangan natin masalihan lahat (We need to compete in all events). We will give them a good fight,” added Tolentino, who is also counting on newly-appointed Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairperson Dicky Bachmann as the national athletes gear up for the Cambodia event.
“Buti na lang pareho kami hands-on (Bachmann) (The good thing is we are both hands-on),” said the POC chief and president of PhilCycling.
Cambodia finished at No. 8 in the last SEA Games edition, winning nine gold medals along with 13 silver and 41 bronzes. Providing the golds for the country were vovinam with three and petanque with two, then kickboxing, wrestling and taekwondo with one each.
Tolentino said it will be quite difficult for Cambodia to win the overall title this year.
“Based on their formula hindi kaya mag-first. Pero sasaksak sa taas yun whether second, third or fourth. So baka battle for fourth na naman. Tingnan natin (Based on their formula, they cannot get first place. But they will surge within the top whether second, third or fourth. So it might be battle for fourth again. Let’s see),” Tolentino said.
Aside from the SEA Games, the Philippines will also gear up for the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September, the Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games in Bangkok November and the World Beach Games in Bali.
“This will be our busiest year in sports,” Tolentino said. (PNA)