HANGZHOU, China — Slaying an Uzbek giant will be the primary mission when Joanie Delgaco marches to the final of the women’s single sculls event of the 19th Asian Games on Monday at the Fuyang Water Sports Centre here.
Action starts at 9:10 a.m. with Delgaco looking to pull a massive upset to win the country’s first ever gold medal in the rowing competition of the Asian Games.
The country’s best finish in rowing was when Alvin Amposta and Nestor Cordova pocketed the bronze medal in the Busan edition of the Asian Games in 2002.
But Delgaco has a good chance to make history if and when she manages to overcome Anna Prakaten, a rowing powerhouse who won the silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics and gold medal in the European Championship.
Born in Belarus but campaigned for Russia, the 31-year-old Prakaten will now be donning the Uzbek jersey with the goal of expanding her dominance to Asia.
She made it to the medal battle after clocking seven minutes and 47.88 seconds in the 2,000-meter race, making her as the No. 1 seed going into the final.
Not to be outdone, Delgaco is equipped to slay the European giant.
The 25-year-old from Bicol will be racing in Lane 2 after clocking 8:18.30 to qualify in the medal round together with Prakaten, Shino Yonekawa of Japan, Liu Ruiqi of China, Leung Wing Wun of Hong Kong and Huang Yi Ting of Chinese Taipei.
“It’s going to be tough. Realistically speaking, we’re good for a third or fourth-place finish,” national team head coach Ed Maerina told Daily Tribune when asked about his assessment on Delgaco’s chances.
“She will be facing an Uzbek who is an Olympic silver medalist. That rower is actually a Bulgarian, played for Russia and now competing for Uzbekistan in pursuit of an Asian medal. So if we’re talking about experience, Uzbek definitely has a huge advantage.”
Maerina said the odds are stacked against Delgaco.
“She’s the smallest in the field. As you know, height is might in rowing,” he said.
“She’s also the only Southeast Asian who made it to the final.”
But Philippine Rowing Association Patrick Gregorio paints a rosy picture of Delgaco’s chances.
After all, the former Southeast Asian Games gold medalist tallied a personal best of 7:39 during her recent training in La Mesa Dam in Quezon City.
Her clocking is around eight seconds faster than Prakaten’s performance in the semifinal, giving her a small chance of pulling an upset.
“If she duplicates it, she has a good chance of winning.”