Thursday, 10 December 2009

World champ jins give RP maiden gold


VIENTIANE, Laos — Janice Lagman, Rani Ann Ortega and Camille Alarilla lived up to expectations Wednesday, topping taekwondo’s poomsae team event by the closest of margins to give Team Philippines its first gold in the 25th Southeast Asian Games at the National University’s Booyung Gymnasium here.

Proving that their victory in the recent 4th World Poomsae Championships in Cairo, Egypt, was no fluke, the charming trio emerged triumphant over their chief rivals from Thailand and Vietnam hours before the biennial meet officially started.

The men’s team of Anthony Matias, Brian Sabido and Jean Pierre Sabido settled for the bronze medal, behind champion Myanmar and runner-up Laos.

Ortega and Sabido likewise snatched a bronze in the mixed pair event.

Lagman, a 22-year-old nurse; Ortega, a 23-year-old sports science graduate, and Alarilla, a 22-year-old economics graduate, narrowly earned the nod of the judges to the delight of a bunch of Filipinos fans.

The Filipinos scored 8.37 in keumgang and 8.60 in pyongwon for a total of 16.97, just a whisker clear of the Thais, who posted 16.94 (8.37 and 8.57). The favored Vietnamese settled for the bronze with 16.87.

Myanmar went on to take the lead in the sport with two golds following its victory in the women’s individual event even as host Laos served notice of its worth when W. Sokhatavi snatched the men’s individual gold and bagged a silver in the women’s individual category.

Unlike in their unexpected victory in the world stage, where they had to contend with bets from 56 countries, the Filipinos came into the 11-nation competition ready to flaunt their mettle.

Before switching to poomsae—the equivalent of kata (form) in karatedo— two years ago, the three Filipinos were members of the national sparring team, which is expected to score heavily here.

“We really prepared hard for the games,” said Ortega, a graduate from the University of the Philippines, in an earlier interview.

Her teammates are also professionals with Lagman an alumnus of Trinity University of Asia and Alarilla, an Ateneo graduate and niece of Philippine Ambassador to Laos Marilyn Alarilla.

The Filipino jins, hounded by spotty officiating, could only bring one gold medal, courtesy of two-time Olympian Tshomlee Go, from the Thailand SEA Games two years ago.

Go’s fellow Olympian, Antoinette Rivero, and the rest of the RP taekwondo squad plunge into action in the sparring competitions starting Thursday at the same venue.

The 21-year-old Rivero heads five jins competing for six golds. She is entered in her pet division, the 67 kg class (welterweight), where she won a silver medal in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand.

“We’re hoping for [fair] officiating this time,” said team manager Rocky Samson. “But looking at the draw, I can say that we stand a good chance.”

Also competing Thursday are Marlon Avenido, Alexander Briones, Criselda Roxas and Kirstie Elaine Alora.

Avenido is entered in the men’s welterweight (under 80 kg) while Briones is vying in the heavyweight class (over 87 kg).

Roxas, an Arts Management student at St. Benilde, will see action in the under 73 kg class (middleweight), while Alora, a gold medalist in the 2005 SEA Games, now fights as a heavyweight.

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