THE Philippine dragon boat team's gold harvestt in the ongoing world championship at the Idroscalo water sports club in Milan, Italy is far from over as they ruled the all-men, small boat 2,000 meter event on Saturday.
The Filipino paddlers entered the race without expectations, having had little training for the grueling distance but banked on their superb conditioning to win their third gold medal in the tournament organized by the International Canoe Federation.
“We were really more concerned with the qualifying runs in the 200-meter races. But since we were first in the order of release, we decided to join,” explained head coach Len Escollante after the charged-up PH boys finished in nine minutes, 35.488 seconds.
Sweden, just behind the Filipinos in the pursuit race, surprised the rest in winding up with the silver in 9:41.814 ahead of Germany (9:43.054), which nosed out frustrated Russia (9:43.774).
The same group of 10 Filipino paddlers was first to qualify in the all men small boat semi-final of the 200 meter distance, and will be joined by the women squad for the 20 mixed and 10 mixed of the 200 races which were moved to Sunday morning.
Based on results of the past two days, it appears the Filipinos – who also won a silver medal - will complete a sweep, meaning they could produce a medal in all seven events, although Sunday will be the toughest as they have to race no less than seven times.
“Ok lang yon, kasi handa naman ang mga bata,” Escollante assured.
Word going around is that European juggernauts - Germany, Poland and Russia - are conceding all 200 meter finals to the Philippines because its paddlers are simply too fast and too furious.
This team was put together by the Philippine Canoe/Kayak Federation under the auspices of the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission.
PCKF Secreary-General Jonne Go, witness to the birth pains of the team along with PCKF president Dr. Sim Chi Tat, said she is proud that from this point on, no European or Asian country will ever again take the Philippines lightly in races that they use to dominate.