NANJING – The Philippines gets its first crack at the medals in the second Asian Youth Games on Saturday when action goes full blast in different venues in and around this hot and humid city.
The Games formally opened on Friday night with simple ceremonies at the Nanjing University Gymnasium. Only 11 Filipino athletes and top officials joined the parade while others watched from the stands.
There will be finals events in judo and weightlifting, and given the chance to break the ice for the Philippines are judokas Miam Salvador and Floyd Derek Rillera and weightlifter Elien Rose Perez.
Salvador and Rillera, both 15 years old and products of the Batang Pinoy, will vie in the girls’ minus 44 kg and boys’ minus 55 kg events at the Longjiang Stadium. The preliminaries begin at 1 p.m.
Perez is only 14 but has a good chance at landing in the podium. In the Asian Youth Weightlifting Championships in Doha last May, she finished fourth in her event.
But except for the gold medalist from China, most of her rivals last May are not here. She said this could work in her favor but said it still doesn’t guarantee anything.
“I will try my best. Hopefully I can get a medal this time,” she said in Filipino.
It will be a busy day for the Philippines in this event reserved for athletes aged 14-17 years and which also serves as a qualifier to the 2014 Youth Olympics also in Nanjing.
Filipino badminton players Allysa Ysabel Leonardo, Joella de Vera, Alvin Morada and second seed Mark Shelley Alcala will see action in the singles and mixed doubles events.
The country’s seven-a-side rugby team, which is capable of pulling off a surprise, faces Hong Kong in Pool B action at the Youth Olympic Sports Park at 5:30 p.m.
The team is composed of Terry Boy Cayetano, Jonel Madrona, Kingsley Ballesteros, Greg George Maleval, Juliann Viktor Feleo, Joshua Whyte, Naimar Candelaria, Andrew Holgate, Albert Rano, Racel Naevasa, and Miguel Francis Ayala.
Emy Rose Dael, Jamaica Dianne Sy, Ryan Jacobo and Vince Olivia will compete in the first and second rounds of table tennis at the Wutaishan Gymnasium.
In 3-on-3 basketball, the Philippines’ George Isaac Go, Patrick Ramirez and Andrei Caracut will figure in a double-header against Indonesia at 6:30 p.m. and Saudi Arabia at 9 p.m. at the Witaisan courts.
The problem with the team is the absence of a fourth man or a substitute. Coach Nic Jorge said players they originally wanted for the team were barred by their schools from joining at the last minute.
“If one of them gets injured, we forfeit the rest of the games,” said Philippine team chef de mission Nathaniel 'Tac' Padilla who, however, is still hoping for the best.
“Not only for our basketball team but for all our 54 athletes here,” said the five-time gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games.
Also joining the parade were Philippine Olympic Committee top officials Tom Carasco, Jose Romasanta, Steve Hontiveros, and Julian Camacho and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia.
A total of 44 countries represented by more than 2,600 athletes are here to compete until August 24. There will be 118 gold medals at stake and the Philippines will be happy to win one or a couple.
In the inaugural AYG in Singapore in 2009, the Philippines won a silver medal in girls’ javelin and a bronze in bowling (boys’masters).
The Filipinos will vie in athletics, badminton, basketball (3-on-3), fencing, golf, judo, rugby, shooting, swimming, tennis, table tennis, taekwondo and weightlifting with no entries in handball, football and squash.