November 20, 2017, 3:42 am
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Olympic star Schooling eyes 6 swim golds

KUALA LUMPUR. – Indoor hockey is a sport new to Filipinos and for the national women’s squad, it’s a continuing learning experience. Coach Jing Arroyo said the team has no international exposure. In fact, this was the first time the players competed abroad. They scored one goal against Thailand and were blanked by host Malaysia and Singapore. Arroyo said it was good for the players to have tested their skills against teams which had played indoor hockey ahead of them. They have another match against Indonesia Thursday.

Arroyo said his wards are not new to team sport as most of them have played volleyball in college. The members of men’s team, meanwhile, were former football players who shifted to the sport. The Hockey Association sent 10 members of the women’s team and 12 for the men’s to the Games here. During matches, six players are fielded, including the goalkeeper. Arroyo said their KL stint will serve them well should indoor hockey be included in 30th SEA Games in Manila in 2019.

*** 

We caught a glimpse of a running drama at the giant TV monitor installed at the lobby of MITEC with Filipino decathlete Aries Toledo running the 110- meter hurdles. A few hurdles before the finish line, Toledo seemed to have developed cramps in his right leg and he was grimacing in pain as he continued the run still in full speed. Toledo finished first but he laid on his back and held his leg, showing how painful it was to race with cramps. Whether Toledo was able to complete the 10 decathlon events is something we have to find out at the end of the day.

***

Organizers of the 29th KL SEA Games have vowed to make the event a “green sporting event” in a “green city,” which is good. For the first time in SEA Games history, organizers have scrapped the printing of start lists and official results even at the Main Press Center. In the past, tons of paper was used to provide printed basic information and technical booklets and backgrounders. Instead they gave each media person individual passwords to connect to wi-fi and to the Games’ official website where they can access the information they need. However, the results are either late or are never posted at all on the site. In fact, after so many attempts, only results of football matches are seen on the screen and no results for tennis, hockey or even volleyball are shown, to name a few. The blunder has caused several sportswriters to complain asking the media secretariat to “wake up” and do something about the big problem.

But if there is something to rave about, it is the generally smooth traffic flow of vehicles, especially from the Sepang International Airport to hotels and venues. From the airport, the only time the shuttle or taxi had to stop was when the driver had his prepaid card scanned at the toll booths. The wide avenues and maybe hundreds of underpasses are keys in the 30- 45 minute ride from the airport. In KL proper, there is also traffic congestion to some extent but there is no standstill as we experience in Metro Manila. Taking a Grab from our hotel downtown usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to multi-sports venue MITEC. Drivers here stick to their lanes and don’t change lanes to move to an open space and get ahead of other cars. If only this practice is done on EDSA and other key roads, perhaps traffic flow will improve by 15-20 percent.

***

Joseph Schooling, the first gold medalist of Singapore in the Olympics (Rio 2016) and winner of nine gold medals in the 2015 SEA Games, is no doubt the biggest star in the Games. Schooling put a rough summer behind him as he stormed to the 50m butterfly gold in a Games record time at the National Aquatic Center here. Monday was the start of Schooling’s gold rush as he was scheduled to swim in another five events. On the second day, he led the Singapore team to record time in men’s 4x100m relay. The 22-year did not do well last July during the World Championships just a year after his shock Olympic 100m butterfly victory in Rio.

Schooling also had to apologize for a remark that upset the Malaysian fans – that of wanting “to teach Malaysians a thing or two” before the SEA Games. He said, “my mother is from Malaysia. So it’s great! Malaysia is always special to me as I grew up here.”

Schooling, who is based in Texas, USA as a student, could only take the 100m butterfly bronze at the Budapest World Championships.

When he showed up for his first event, Schooling was glad that there was no booing. “We’re here to have a good meet and to put on a good show and I think the crowd wants to see that.”

Six gold medals for an athlete who won nine the last time? Schooling should be a shoo-in for that, no doubt.
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