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HEARTBREAKING FINALE — Tsukii setback closes Filipinos’ Asian Games bid

JUNNA Tsukii sheds tears after bowing to Srey Phea Chonn of Cambodia in the Round of 16 of the women’s 50-kilogram kumite event of the 19th Asian Games. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF POC-PSC MEDIA POOL

HANGZHOU, China — Junna Tsukii penned a sorry, heartbreaking finale to Team Philippines’ campaign as she bowed to a Southeast Asian rival in the karate competition of the 19th Asian Games on Sunday at the Linping Sports Centre Gymnasium here.

The 32-year-old Tsukii, the reigning World Games champion, surrendered to Srey Phea Chonn of Cambodia via points in the Round of 16 of the women’s 50-kilogram kumite to wrap up the country’s participation in the biggest edition of this prestigious continental event.

Tsukii said she was in control in the first round, but she lost her momentum when the referee deducted a point that doomed her chances.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot give good news for everyone. I tried my best to win in the Asian Games, but I failed,” said the Filipino-Japanese karate star from Takushoku University in Tokyo, who failed to duplicate the feat registered by Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski of equestrian when she clinched a gold medal in the final day of the Busan Asian Games in 2002.

“In this Asian Games, we gave everything. We did perfect. We keep our heads up. It is painful, but we have to move on.”

Philippine Karate Federation president Ricky Lim thanked Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard “Dickie” Bachmann for dropping by and cheering for Tsukii with the same passion and intensity that he did to other Filipino athletes.

“Chairman’s presence in our last game means a lot, not just for us in karate but to other athletes as well,” Lim said.

“This just goes to show that there is sincerity and concern to the athletes coming from the PSC.”

Bachmann, who is set to return to Manila on Sunday together with a small group of athletes and PSC staff, said regardless of Tsukii’s heartbreaking loss, the PSC will always root for Filipino athletes in major international events.

“Medal or no medal, the Philippine Sports Commission will always do its best to show its unwavering support to all our athletes carrying the Philippine flag,” Bachmann, who was joined by sports commissioners Fritz Gaston and Edward Hayco in looking after the athletes in the Asian Games, said.

“Even with the circumstances we faced in these Games, it’s fulfilling for us to be of service to our sports heroes, hear their stories, and continue to build good relationships with them.”

Still, Team Philippines will leave this cold, foggy metropolis in Zhejiang Province with good memories as it was still able to match its gold medal production in the previous edition of the Games in Jakarta.

The Filipinos wrapped up their stint with four gold, two silver and 12 bronze medals for a 17th place finish, a performance that was earlier predicted by Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.

EJ Obiena, the second-best pole vaulter in the world, soared to a record-breaking 5.90 meters to assert his Asian domination while jiu-jitsu bets Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez delivered a pair of gold medals in the last few days of competition.

But the biggest surprise came from men’s basketball when Gilas Pilipinas shocked China in the semifinals, 77-76, before shutting down Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jordan in the final, 70-60, to claim the gold medal.

Arnel Mandal of wushu and Olympic bronze medalist Eumir Marcial of boxing were accounted for the silver medals while other Filipino bets claimed bronze from taekwondo, wushu, tennis, cycling, weightlifting, sepak takraw, karate and jiu-jitsu.

Tolentino said it was still a job well done.

“It’s still a very, very good finish, better than all our previous Asian games because of our victory in basketball,” said Tolentino, who was with Marcial when he flew back to Manila on Sunday morning.

“We had four golds, an Asian Games record from Obiena and two jiu-jitsu replacing the two that we lost in women’s golf.”

“We finished 17th overall and that’s another accomplishment. Let’s look at the final placing and not the number of medals.”

Bachmann added that Filipino athletes truly made the country proud.

“The 19th Asian Games have been an incredible display of talent and determination from our Filipino athletes,” said Bachmann, who will grace the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday to report the country’s performance in the Asian Games.

“Our four gold, two silver and 12 bronze medals, partnered with the tremendous commitment of each athlete in their respective sports, have made our nation proud.”

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