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Team Phl primed for strong finish

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — After a massive nine-gold medal haul on Sunday, Team Philippines sustained its solid form, grabbing four gold medals in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games on Monday at the Morodok Techo National Stadium here.

Rising star Vanessa Sarno kicked off the medal rush as she delivered the gold in record-breaking fashion while veteran Tina Vergara came out of retirement to shine in wrestling and Maria Ella Alcoseba and Dexter Bolambao asserted their dominance in arnis for the Filipinos, who are expected to surpass the 52 gold medals that they tallied during the previous biennial meet in Hanoi.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said the Filipino athletes are primed for a strong finish entering the final two days of the competition.

As of 7:30 p.m., the Philippines is at the fifth spot with 50 gold, 74 silver and 94 bronze medals, just few mints shy of its finish in Hanoi where it plucked 52 gold, 70 silver and 105 bronze medals.

“We will surpass our medal tally in Vietnam,” Tolentino said.

“It is achievable. God-willing, it might even reach 60 gold medals.”

True enough, the Filipino athletes are working hard to eclipse their previous performance.

Sarno, for one, shattered her record of 104 kgs in snatch by lifting 105 kgs topped with 120 kgs in clean and jerk for a commanding 225 kgs en route to the gold medal.

Sarno, fresh from a three-gold medal performance in the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Jinju, South Korea, said consistent training helped her stay in shape.

“We would always have our heavy training. We didn’t have any days off or reduced our weights. If we can do it every day, doing it within six days is doable,” said Sarno, billed as the heir apparent of Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz.

Over at the Chroy Changvar Convention Center, 44-year-old Vergara proved that age is just a number when she ruled the women’s -65-kg freestyle wrestling event.

Vergara, a two-time SEAG gold medalist, added another mint in her collection after an 8-0 win over Sopha Thammavong of Laos and a 12-2 triumph over hometown bet Sambat Vannak in a single round robin format.

Not to be outdone, Alcoseba chipped in to the country’s golden harvest when she won over Moe Moe Aye of Myanmar in the final of the bantamweight division of women’s full contact live stick event.

Over at the Elephant Hall of Morodok Techo National Sports Complex, Renalyn Dacquel settled for silver against Nga Nguyen Thi Hang of Vietnam in full contact female -48kg event.

Also settling for silver was the vaunted Gilas Pilipinas Women team following a 77-63 win over longtime rival Malaysia in the final day of women’s basketball event.

Cathlyn Vergara, meanwhile, snagged a bronze medal for the Philippines in the women’s 59 kg wrestling competition while Danny Kingad also took a bronze medal in the men’s low kick event in kickboxing.

The men’s epee fencing team of Jian Bautista, Rex Dela Cruz, Lee Ergina and Noelito Jose got medal bronze as well as the women’s foil team of Samantha Catantan, Janna Catantan, Maricar Matienzo, and Justine Tinio.

Jason Huerte, Rheyjey Ortouste and Elly Jan Nituda pocketed a bronze medal in Sepak Takraw men’s doubles event.

Tolentino said more medals will be drawn in sports like kickboxing, judo, weightlifting, wrestling, dragonboat, beach volleyball, jet ski and sepak takraw.

“If we get one gold each from these sports, we will definitely surpass the 52 golds in Vietnam,” the POC chief said.

“There could be surprises out there.”

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