No way Pinoys won’t get overall title

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    TEAM Philippines is all set to be crowned as Southeast Asian Games king anew.

    As usual, the queens were there to readily chip in and help their male compatriots maintain their overall lead going into the last three days of action in the 30th version of the games.

    Virtually striking in all fronts, the hosts amassed 19 finals victories Sunday to stay firmly entrenched on top of the overall standings with a whopping 108-gold total, widening their lead over their closest pursuers.

    There are still 132 gold medals to be disputed in the last three days, including 80 Monday and 51 Tuesday, and the likes of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are poised to divide the lion’s share of those among themselves.

    Team PH, however, is expected to win some more and sustain its drive to bring home the overall lead it has latched on to since the battles for medals started Dec. 1 and stretched to 39 gold medals over Indonesia following an equally astounding 17-gold haul last Saturday.

    The Philippines, which joined the meet along with Indonesia in 1977, emerged as the top nation with 113 gold medals in 2005, when it hosted the biennial meet for the third time.

    The certainty of a second overall title being in the bag was first openly expressed by POC chair Steve Hontiveros yesterday. “Atin na ito, tayo na overall champions. ‘Yung iba wala ng masyadong pagkukunan,” he proclaimed.

    The fight remains burning among the challengers, however, with Indonesia showing its determination through 15 gold medals that jacked its total to 65 but now 43 adrift of Team PHL.

    Vietnam also tried to gain ground by winning 16 golds but remained at third, just six ahead of Thailand which won 14 yesterday.

    There was simply too much of Team PHL on a day that saw it strike from 12 fronts.

    It was not all triumphs for the day with a false start and outright disqualification in his heats denying Eric Cray a chance to retain his 100m title and Kristine Knott failing to follow up her record-breaking 200m victory, settling for the silver in the century dash. The Blu Boys also failed to duplicate their female counterparts’ feat, bowing to preliminaries tormentor Singapore in their golden match.

    But there were plenty of victories elsewhere, more than enough to ease those pains.

    Foremost was the national women’s softball team, which stretched its historic domination of the sport by whipping Thailand 15-2 in the final game to annex a 10th straight title in the sport.

    The gold rush also continued in taekwondo as featherweight Pauline Lopez, lightweight Dave Cea and welterweight Samuel Morrison all won their respective categories to bring to seven the sport’s contribution to Team PHL’s cause.

    Individual winner Bianca Pangdanganan added another golf gold by combining with Lois Kaye Go for victory in the women’s team match play.

    Also becoming double gold medalists were rower Melcah Jen Caballero and Noelle Manalac of soft tennis. Caballero topped the lightweight singles sculls after pairing up with Joanie Delgaco for the lightweight double sculls victory last Saturday while Manalac and Noelle Zoleta topped the doubles also a day after the former won the singles crown.

    After Knott and EJ Obiena, who registered a record-setting win in pole vault Saturday, it was the turn of fellow tracksters Sarah Dequinan and Natalie Rose Uy to take the spotlight.

    After securing the women’s pole vault gold with a 4.20m effort Uy set the new event standard by clearing 4.25m on her final attempt.

    Dequinan emerged as the region’s toughest woman by winning the grueling heptathlon event after accumulating 5,101 points. It was the first heptathlon gold for the country since Elma Muros-Posadas won it in 2001.

    Nildie Blancada won the shortboard and Roger Casogay the longboard in surfing while muay artists Phillip Delarmino (57 kgs) and Ariel Lampacan (54 kgs) also emerged victorious as well as wakeskaters Jhondi Wllace and Susan Larsson.

    Christiana Means, twice runner-up to Margielyn Didal, finally won her own skateboarding gold through the park event with Jericho Francisco (men’s park) and Jaime Delange (downhill) following suit.

    The Volcanoes shredded Malaysia 19-0 to also complete their seven-game sweep of the Rugby 7s while Emerson Villena and Lester Troy Tayong made sure sailing contributed by reigning supreme in the men’s international 470.