NAY PYI TAW – A world champion who would not be struck by lightning twice and a pair of judokas provided the lift Team Philippines needed Friday in its last-ditch bid to overtake an immovable rival in the 27th Southeast Asian Games here.
Rubilen Amit exacted sweet revenge on 9-ball finals tormentor Angeline Magdalena of Indonesia with an emphatic 7-2 victory to take the 10-ball gold and add on to the steamrolling victories fashioned by veteran Gilbert Ramirez and Kiyomi Watanabe from the mat.
Those three wins for the day gave Team PH a 26-gold total that momentarily tied it with Singapore for sixth place.
Just a little bit later five gold medals came the Singaporeans way from sailing, enabling them to hold on to the spot which the Filipinos have set their modest sights on.
For some fleeting moments, the joy brought by the wins from the felt table and mat boosted Team PH’s morale no end.
“Talagang gusto kong manalo this time because of what happened the first time we met. Parang gigil ako noon,” said Amit, referring to her earlier loss to Magdalena. “After that, nag-pray ako and naging more calm naman.”
Like in the 9-ball, Magdalena included Iris Ranola among her victims on her way to the finals and this also acted as motivation for Amit.
It showed in the way the Cebu native raced to a 6-1 lead and although she blew a chance to put a quicker ending, wasted little time in the ninth rack.
Also quick and decisive were the victories notched by the judokas.
Ramirez, who won the gold medals in both the 2003 and 2005 editions of the biennial meet, emerged triumphant in the 73 kgs-and-under category, forcing Banpot Lertthaisong of Thailand to tap out following an vise-like arm bar.
Watanabe was just as impressive, lifting Vietnamese Thi Hoa Bui off her defensive posture and completing a hold of her own for a full point inside the last 1:30 of the five-minute match for the 63 kgs-and-under gold.
“Very determined na manalo ang mga bata,” said coach Rolan Llamas, specifically citing the 16-year-old Watanabe, who is using the Asian Youth Games last August, this tournament and the Olympic Youth Games next year in China as training ground in hopes of making it to the 2016 Olympics.
“Gusto niya talagang manalo and I hope magtuloy-tuloy ang development niya,” added Llamas.
Saturday should paint a clearer overall picture.
The Filipinos are competing for the five remaining gold medals in taekwondo, the three in muay, and the two each in chess and judo, events which are traditionally not the Singaporeans’ strongest suits.
“The target remains 30 gold medals and wherever it may take us. That goal is within reach, pero whether it would be enough to get us sixth remains the big question,” said Team PHL chief of mission Jeff Tamayo.
“One thing for sure, our athletes will continue to do their best for those gold medals,” added the soft tennis association chief.
Judoka Jenielou Mosqueda and the sailors over at Ngwe Saung Beach tried to do their part, but came up just short.
Mosqueda, like Watanabe and Ramirez a bronze winner in the 2011 biennial meet, lost by decision to Thailand’s Om Pongchaliew in the 57 kgs-and-under category while Richly Balladares and Ridgely Magsanay could only finish behind champion Thailand in International 470 class.
In windsurfing, Geylord Coveta also finished just behind a Thai winner.