KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – 5 gold, 3 silver, 10 bronze medals. At the closeout of the Athletics competition at the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, that’s the final medal tally for teamPHathletics, putting the Philippines in the fifth rung out of 11 Southeast Asian nations that saw action in the biennial conclave. Months before the SEA Games and during the preparation of the Philippine team for its participation, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) made a modest forecast of winning at least three gold medals considering that the level of competition within the region has significantly heightened. But what made the medal haul of teamPHathletics even more significant is its remarkable cohesiveness. Weeks leading up to the Games, one key member of the men’s relay team, Patrick Unso, suffered a major hamstring injury which effectively sidelined him from the SEAG. Unso then has just reset the Philippine record in the men’s 110m hurdles and was part of the relay team who saw action in the Hong Kong Intercity Championships that set the new RP 4x100m relay record. Then on the eve of the official start of the SEA Games, EJ Obiena figured in a freak accident that caused complete rupture of his left leg anterior cruciate ligament. Though dejected from these two major setbacks and heartbroken for their fallen comrades, teamPHathletes refused to lose morale. Instead, each member of the team publicly dedicated their scheduled competitions to their two teammates and vowed to perform resiliently.
At the end of the SEAG Athletics competition, teamPHathletics had Mary Joy Tabal (marathon), Eric Shauwn Cray (400m hurdles), Aries Toledo (decathlon), and Trenten Beram (200m and 400m) bagged gold medals, Mark Harry Diones (triple jump), Eric Cray (100m), Marco Vilog (800m) won silver, and Arniel Ferrera (hammer throw), Janry Ubas (long jump), Marestella Sunang (long jump), Mervin Guarte (1500m), Evalyn Palabrica (javelin throw), Melvin Calano (javelin throw), Clinton Bautista (110m hurdles), Archand Bagsit, Trenten Beram, Eric Cray, Anfernee Lopena (4x100m), Zion Rose Nelson, Kayla Richardson, Kyla Richardson, Eloiza Luzon (4x100m), and Edgardo Alejan, Archand Bagsit, Michael del Prado, Aries Toledo (4x400m) copped bronze medals. Out of the medals won, 4 ushered in new Philippine records – decathlon, men’s 200m, men’s 4x100m, and women’s 4x100m. Despite some unfavorable conditions thrown in the way of the team, such as Eric Cray’s 100m event pinched in between his 400m hurdles prelims and finals and Trenten Beram getting the outermost lane assigned to top 4 qualifiers in the 400m, teamPHathletes never succumbed to pressure and instead rose up to the challenge.
All things considered, teamPHathletics had a remarkable performance in the recently concluded SEA Games.Athletics chief Philip Juico made no exception when he congratulated the entire team in its successful participation. “My own personal wish was about 7. But we had two hits. Eric Cray’s schedule was sandwiched, and then EJ Obiena was not able to compete. So we have 5 now and those two, we would’ve been right on the nose. But that’s water under the bridge. We’re happy,” Juico said. “We’ve got a number of silver medals and bronze medals and this is a good build-up to the Asian Games and the SEA Games in Manila.”
The Philippines finished 5th place overall in athletics behind Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, respectively.
The SEA Games participation of the national athletics team was supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, and in part by the Ayala Corporation, UCPB Gen, and Cherrylume Corrugated Sheets and in cooperation with Soleus, L Timestudio, and Marriott Hotel Manila.