PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Wushu star Agatha Wong sparked a four-gold haul Friday as the Philippines geared up for the final push in its bid for a fourth-place finish in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games here.
Wong, balancing her studies and training, came up with a dazzling performance in the women’s combined taijiquan and taijijian events and won 19.263 points for her fifth SEA Games gold medal.
“I didn’t expect to win because I’m also a med student. I’m in my first year of medicine,” said Wong, who returned to school after graduating with a Diplomatic Affairs degree from the College of St. Benilde in 2018.
Later in the day, Aidaine Laxa, Joel Ninobla, and Nicole Labayne kicked their way to victory in the women’s poomsae event, delivering taekwondo’s first victory here.
Patrick King Perez made it a golden double for taekwondo by ruling the men’s individual poomsae event, injecting life into the country’s sagging hopes.
The men’s 4x400m relay team ended the country’s campaign in athletics with a much-needed victory, clocking 3:07.22 to edge the Thai squad (3:07.23) for the gold.
Athletics also delivered two more silver medals through the women’s 4x400m relay and javelin thrower Gennah Astorga while wushu also contributed a silver courtesy of Gideon Padua in the men’s sanda event.
What appeared as a sure gold in fencing, courtesy of defending champion Samantha Catantan, turned into silver when she injured her knee in the semifinals while she was in the process of putting Singaporean Kemei Chung away in the women’s foil event.
On the advice of her coach and medical personnel, Catantan later conceded the gold to another Singaporean, Maxine Wong, the same fencer she beat for the title last year in Vietnam.
Counting the solitary gold medals delivered by Joseph Arcilla in the men’s singles event in soft tennis and by Eric Cray in the 400m hurdles in the last two days, the Pinoy contingent, backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, and the Philippine Olympic Committee, improved its gold medal tally to 31 going into the last four days of action.
While Pinoy athletes continued to scrounge for gold medals, Vietnam sustained its drive to retain the overall championship it won in Hanoi last year, with Thailand and Cambodia making it a three-way race.
Indonesia and Singapore were running fourth and fifth, with the Philippines hard-pressed to duplicate its fourth-place finish last year in Vietnam where it won 52 gold medals.
Another defeat in basketball, this time by Gilas’ women’s team to the Cambodian squad 68-89, continued to bring down the morale of the Pinoy bets, who watched in horror as Gilas Pilipinas absorbed a 68-79 defeat to Cambodia in men’s play last Thursday.
Gilas returns to action Saturday, favored to clinch a semis berth, against lowly Singapore.
Things are expected to perk up Saturday when four of the country’s boxers – Tokyo Olympian Irish Magno, two-time SEA Games champions Rogen Ladon and Ian Clark Bautista, along with Riza Pasuit – fight for gold medals, well aware they need to deliver to boost the country’s sagging campaign.
Five more pugs – Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Carlo Paalam, fellow Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Nesthy Petecio, Paul Julyfer Bascon, Fil-British John Marvin, and Petecio’s younger brother, Norlan – see action Sunday.
Action in arnis, which is being held in the games for only the second time, gets going Saturday, with Pinoy bets favored to stamp their mark.
Pinoy fighters are also expected to contend for the majority of the 17 gold medals to be disputed in kickboxing, which also starts Saturday.