POC pins Asian Games bid on men this time

Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino —INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino —INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

HANGZHOU, China—Women power was at the heart of a magnificent Philippine finish back in the 2018 Asian Games (Asiad) in Indonesia.

It would be nice if Filipino male athletes could earn their share of the spotlight this time.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Bambol’ Tolentino reiterated on Friday his goal of at least matching the four-gold haul from four years ago—only this time, he hopes the men will come to save the day.

“I’d like to see our male athletes win this time,’’ said Tolentino ahead of the opening ceremony at the Hangzhou Olympic Centre Stadium on Saturday.

There are at least three men who can make that hope real: Pole vaulter and world No. 2 EJ Obiena and Olympic medalist-boxers Carlo Paalam (silver, Tokyo 2021) and Eumir Marcial (bronze, Tokyo 2021).

The Philippines won four gold medals in 2018 through the efforts of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, golfer Yuka Saso and the golf team of Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go.

“As long as our male athletes can recover and our female athletes maintain what they have achieved, I guess we will be fine,’’ said Tolentino.

Full-scale competition at the Hangzhou Games is set on Sunday when the bulk of the 396-athlete Philippine contingent from 40 sports launches its bid to become, at the very least, the best-performing country in Southeast Asia.

At least four golds

“There are more male athletes than females in our delegation. A minimum of four (golds) will be okay,’’ said Tolentino, whose medal projection includes Filipino gamers in esports and golfers Clyde Mondilla and Justin Quiban in the equation.

Obiena, the current continental two-time champion and Asian record holder of six meters, should find winning the gold much easier than the World Athletics Championships where the Filipino star landed second behind Armand Duplantis of Sweden.

Paalam saw his confidence soar after bagging silver in Tokyo while Marcial, who won all of his four professional fights, claimed a bronze medal in the previous Summer Games.

Medals should likewise come pouring from combat sports taekwondo courtesy of two-time Asiad bronze medalist Kirstie Elaine Alora, jiujitsu’s Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez, Asiad silver medalist Kiyomi Watanabe of judo and weightlifter Vanessa Sarno.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.

Your subscription has been successful.

And then there is swimmer Kayla Noelle Sanchez, who shoulders a lot of the country’s golden hope after helping the Canadian swim team capture a silver and bronze in the women’s relay of the Tokyo Olympics and then switching federations to represent her parents’ country. INQ