Combat sports delivered 57 golds

    LONG WAIT ENDS: Members and officials of the Gilas Women’s squad proudly take their spot at the podium after beating Thailand 91-71 Tuesday to win the country’s first gold in women’s basketball in the Southeast Asian Games, ending a 42-year drought.

    COMBAT sports was responsible for more than a third of the gold medal output that boosted Team Philippines to historic new heights and the overall crown of the just-concluded 30th Southeast Asian Games.

    Bannered by the golden return of arnis, the topnotcher with 14 mints, the country’s boxers, taekwondo jins, boxers, judokas, karatekas,  wushu, muay thai, jiu-jitstu, and other hand-to-hand athletes accounted for 57 of the 149 gold medals the country won in the fourth and biggest hosting of the regional games.

    After arnis, taekwondo was the next prolific producer with eight mints while boxing and wushu were not too far behind with seven each.

    Jiu-jitsu, led by world champion Meggie Ochoa, had five while judo, muay thai and kick boxing pitched in with three each. Karate and sambo had a pair while pencak silat and kurash had one each.

    The decision to introduce 10 new disciplines in the 11-nation meet paid handsomely for the hosts, netting 29 gold medals in all.

    The most successful of them all was obstacle course racing, with the Pinoy campaigners sweeping all six mints up for grabs in the sport’s SEA Games debut, while the skateboarders, led by the golden double of Asian Games skateboarding champion Margielyn Arda Didal, also had six.

    The popular millennial game of electronic sports produced three mints and modern pentathlon also contributed a pair.

    Among the disciplines familiar to sports fans, athletics struck a gold mine with 11 while dancesport had 10.

    Billiards, starring the dynamic female duo of Chezka Centeno and Rubilen Amit, contributed four mints, the same output of basketball.

    While swimming and squash only contributed one gold apiece, worth noting was their breakthroughs wins.

    Fil-Am James Deipaeine ended a 10-year drought in swimming by clinching the men’s 100-meter breaststroke mint.

    On the other hand, the PH squash mixed team gave the country its first gold since joining the sport in the 1991 PH SEA Games.