THE Philippine ice hockey team hopes to pull off a surprise as it aims for a golden finish in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Francois Gautier of the Philippine International Hockey Tournament admitted liking the country’s chance of winning in the August 19-31 meet, where ice hockey makes its debut along with ice skating as part of the 38 calendar of events at stake.
“We’re not guaranteeing (of winning) a gold, but that’s what we’re aiming for,” said Gautier in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Golden Phoenix Hotel on Tuesday. “If we play hard, I’m pretty positive we can win the hardware.”
Gautier pointed to Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia as the teams to reckon with in the SEA Games, but added the Philippine team will go out contesting every goal.
Singapore completes the five-team field competing in the event.
As part of the Filipinos’ preparation, the team will be seeing action in the Philippine Ice Hockey Tournament that starts on Wednesday at the SM Megamall.
Presented by SM Skating, the meet features six teams from Singapore, Chinese-Taipei, South Korea, and New York slugging it out in the international open category.
Gautier added four teams, including visitors from Canada, are vying in the 35-above category, a contact but non-hitting tournament.
Also appearing in the weekly forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Golden Phoenix Hotel, Accel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., were young figure skaters Skye Chua and Gabby Panlilio, winners in the recent SEA Challenge held at the SM Skating Seaside City in Cebu, and Stephanie Henares-Dela Pena, head of business development of the SM Lifestyle Entertainment, Inc. (SMLEI).
Chua and Panlilio, barely in their teens, bagged the gold medals in the Basic Novice B and Advanced Novice, respectively, in the event for figure skaters from Southeast Asia.
“Hosting an event like this is our way of training our future athletes to compete in the next level, develop camaraderie with other countries, and see how they train then compare it with ours. It’s great training ground for our athletes,” said Henares-Dela Pena.
Gautier said the twin event that follows the International Hockey Federation rules and regulations with specific alternations will give the Philippine team to the SEA Games a needed tune-up, and help boost the popularity of the sport in the country.
The ice hockey official said the host teams are going all out in the tournaments kicking off today and hopes to gain momentum heading to the SEA Games in August.