NAY PYI TAW – The long reign of John Baylon may be finally over, but Filipino judokas remain optimistic, knowing they can still get the job done without their legendary warrior.
Judo coach Rolan Llamas said a strong performance in their pre-qualifying meet, plus a needed presence in the technical board, boost their chances when the competition kicks off Wednesday at the Zayar Thiri Indoor Stadium here.
Llamas said they are eyeing a record performance of five gold medals, which is not quite an audacious goal when one factors in the fact Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter is sitting as head of technical officials.
"Kayang-kaya natin ma-achieve yan, basta huwag lang dadayain," Llamas said. "Pero tingin ko, hindi naman mangyayari yun. Kilala kasi natin ang mga technical officials at mga referees, at si Mr. Carter ang nakaupo sa taas. So mababantayan nyang mabuti ang tawagan."
In the pre-SEA Games qualifying meet last October, the judokas brought home seven gold medals with Ruth Dugaduga, Nancy Quillotes-Lucero, Helen Dawa, Kiyome Watanabe, and Jenilou Mosqueda asserting their dominance.
It was an impressive finish that brings a ray of hope following the retirement of Baylon – the legendary judoka who retired after his 22-year dominance on the mat was halted by an unheralded Vietnamese two years ago in Palembang, Indonesia.
Llamas said the huge void created by Baylon's retirement can easily be filled up by the improved play of Quillotes-Lucero and Dugaduga.
"They have the brightest chances of winning," said Llamas, adding Bryan Quillotes, Lloyd Dennis Catipon, Gilbert Ramirez and Angelo Gabriel Gumila should also all compete for the gold and bounce the country back from a one-win performance, through Nancy Quillotes in the 45kg-and-under class, the last time out.
"Kayang-kaya natin makuha ang goal natin, hindi imposible iyun."