ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – The Philippines begins its campaign as Filipino wrestlers and jiu-jitsu grapplers start their quest for gold medals in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) at the Ashgabat Olympic Stadium here.
Three-time International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation World Championship champion Margarita “Meggie” Ochoa leads the campaign of the Filipinos in this 5th edition of AIMAG.
“Halos kilala ko lahat ng mga makaka-laban ko, mga nakalaban ko na din before,” said the 5-foot-1 Ochoa, who also won a gold medal in the Asian Beach Games a year back in Danang, Vietnam.
“Ready naman tayo kasi last time I competed was in the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship, that was in August,” added Ochoa, 27, who will fight in her regular category of 45kg division.
Also expected to deliver a medal for the Philippines is Annie Ramirez, a two–time gold medal winner in the Asian Beach Games. She recently won two gold medals in the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“I think maganda naman, may laban tayo and kaya nating makakuha ng gold. Sana maging ok ang lahat, walang injuries, and makapag-isip ng tama pag-dating sa araw ng laban,” Ramirez said.
“During my last fight in Hanoi, I won two gold medals there, open category and sa 55kg division ko. At least may konting advantage na ako sa mga makakalaban kung sila pa din yung mga sasali dito,” added Ramirez.
Eight other jiu-jitsu fighters will participate in the tournament.
They are Hansel Terence Co (77kg), Gian Taylor Dee (56kg), Mark Alexander Lim (69kg), Golbert Ambao (94kg), Apryl Eppinger (62kg), Lou-Ann Jindani (55kg) and Carol Pajaron (49kg).
The drawing lots will be held Friday evening.
The traditional wrestling will likewise start today, as five fighters will try to make a podium finish. These are Alvin Lobregito (freestyle 57kg), Jefferson Manato (classic style 57kg), Johnny Morte (freestyle 68kg), Grace Loberanes (freestyle 52kg) and Noemi Tenner (freestyle 58kg).
In the flag raising ceremony at the Village Flag Plaza, national team Chef de Mission Monsour del Rosario said there is a strong chance for the team to capture medals in jujitsu and wrestling.
“Everything is on track. Looks like the athletes are in good spirits last night I checked them,” said the former Olympian turned actor who is now a congressman representing the 1st district of Makati City. “
“Excited sila… ang pinagdadasal ko na lang ang draw lots ng mga fighters (I hope) hindi agad matapat sa mga World Champions at Asian Champions na malalakas na teams. Sana matapat muna medyo kaya nila tapos habang papunta ng quarterfinals, semifinals at finals doon na nila makakatapat yung mga World and Asian champions para may chance tayo mag-medalya,” he added.
The national team will see action in 17 sports, including Electronic Sports. A total of 116 athletes will attend the opening ceremony scheduled Sunday at the 35,000-seater Ashgabat Olympic Stadium.