PHNOM PENH—A fourth place finish doesn’t look achievable anymore in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games but winding up No. 5 with more medals is more worth it for a Philippine contingent that’s fighting to the end on Cambodian soil.
A 44-year-old mother did just that—showing age doesn’t matter in a grueling and demanding wrestling sport—alongside her 18-year-old daughter as Team Philippines went two gold medals shy of the 52 won in Vietnam last year.
“We will surpass our medal tally in Vietnam,” Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said on Monday. “It’s achievable, God-willing it might (even) reach 60 (golds).”
The Philippines had 50 gold, 77 silver and 102 bronze medals on Monday night to be at fifth place in the medals race being topped by Vietnam (122-100-97 gold-silver-bronze), followed by Thailand (94-76-92), Indonesia (74-66-92) and Cambodia (70-67-113).
Singapore used to be ahead of the Philippines with its splurge in swimming but could only be at the 45-gold medal mark also on Monday.
Women power carried the day as a 44-year-old substitute fighter in wrestling led a four-gold harvest that pushed the Philippine campaign with only a day of competitions remaining.
Cristina Vergara, 45, topped the 65-kg women’s category of wrestling by beating Cambodia’s Sambat Vannak via a 12-2 technical superiority old.
Her daughter, 18-year-old daughter, Cathlyn, competing in the 59-kg class, made it a spectacular family affair in freestyle wrestling, winning a bronze medal.
Weightlifter Vanessa Sarno started the day right for the Philippine contingent, extending her reign in the women’s 71kg category in record fashion despite the lack of sleep, having come all the way from the Asian championships in Jinju, South Korea.
Female arnis exponent Ma. Ella Alcoseba delivered the country’s third gold for the day, ruling the women’s full contact live stick contest in the bantamweight class while Dexler Sandigan Bolambao won the country’s fourth mint by topping the same weight class in the men’s division.
Gilas Pilipinas added to the country’s celebration by ending the one-year reign of Indonesia, scoring an 84-76 decision in their semis battle and likely arranging a rematch for the gold with Cambodia.
The four-gold haul pushed the Philippine squad, backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee, within two gold medals of duplicating the country’s 52-gold haul last year in Vietnam.
Earlier in the day, POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino expressed confidence Pinoy athletes will surpass the Vietnam harvest, adding he expects the team to reach the 60-gold mark.
“We will surpass our medal tally in Vietnam,” said Tolentino. “It’s achievable. God-willing, it might (even) reach 60 (golds).”
In its Facebook page, the PSC welcomed the elder Vergara’s golden finish, saying: “Philippine wrestling team playing coach Cristina Vergara is more than ready to hang her Team Philippines jersey after successfully clinching the country’s 48th gold medal.”
Sent into action after the country’s original bet in the 65kg category, Levi Espuerta, got injured, Vergara won her third SEA Games gold on top of one silver and a bronze. She won her other gold medals in the 2003 and 2005 games.