INCHEON, Korea — As the curtains fell on the 17th Asian Games on Saturday, the Philippines was left to wallow in its worst finish in the last six editions as the country bows out with one gold, two silver, and 12 bronze medals in this bustling Korean city.
Only BMX rider Daniel Caluag lived up to the expectations as he bagged the Philippines’ lone gold days after several athletes dubbed 'medal potentials,' including the highly-touted Gilas Pilipinas squad, fell by the wayside.
The country's performance in these Games is only better than the 1990 edition in Beijing when the Philippines ended up with a 1-2-7 gold-silver-bronze medal haul. In the period following that, the Filipinos had a maximum of four golds in Doha (2006) and a minimum of 1-5-12 in Bangkok (1998).
The total was far worse compared to our Southeast Asian Games neighbors Thailand (12-7-28), Malaysia (5-14-14), Singapore (5-6-13), Indoneisa (4-5-11), Myanmar (2-1-1), and Vietnam (1-10-25), signalling what could be another bleak campaign in the SEA Games next year in Singapore.
Even with the absence of billiards where the country accounted for one of the three golds in the 2010 Asiad in Guangzhou, Philippine Sports Commission chairman and delegation chef de mission Richie Garcia had hoped the country could win around seven golds in Korea.
Several gold medal prospects, however, only settled for silver and bronze, while some didn't even come close to a podium finish.
Boxing, considered the sport with the best gold medal chances, settled for one silver won by Charly Suarez and bronzes from 2012 Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga, Wilfredo Lopez and Mario Fernandez.
Local officials believe biased officating led to several boxers missing a chance at a possible gold medal, although it has been that way in the sport for quite a while.
Bowling, where Biboy Rivera was aiming to defend his gold in 2010, didn't even come close to claiming bronze. As did windsurfer Gaylord Coveta, who carried the flag during the opening ceremonies.
As for Gilas? The men's basketball team who was coming off a successful campaign in the Fiba World Cup in Spain finished a dismal seventh. It was the lowest ever for the country in Asiad play, and the drama-filled run had been dubbed by Filipino cage fans as a “Koreanovela.”
As if the issue on the eligibility of Andray Blatche in the Asian Games was not enough drama for the team, head coach Chot Reyes called Marcus Douthit a ‘quitter’ and ‘un-Filipino’ after the loss to Qatar in the quarterfinals.
Douthit was benched in the following game against Korea, which Gilas lost by just two points before a packed crowd at the Samsan World Gymnasium that brought back memories of the country's haunting losses to the host in years past.
Gilas Pilipinas did win a quarterfinal game against Kazakhstan by two points but the team drew flak once again when the team intentionally tried to score a basket in their own goal, hoping to force overtime, in order to have a chance at meeting the required point margin of 11 points to advance to the semifinals.
But there were also a few bright spots in the Philippine campaign.
Wushu provided optimism early on in the 17th Asiad for the Philippines when Jean Claude Saclag and Daniiel Parantac won silvers and Francisco Solis a bronze.
Taekwondo failed to land a gold as the upstart team settled for five bronze medals, the most bemedalled by any sport for Team Philippines, from Samuel Morrison, Benjamin Sembrano, Mary Anjelay Pelaez, Levita Ronna Ilao, and Kirstie Elaine Alora.
Archery and karate also accounted for bronze medals from Paul Merton Dela Cruz and Mae Soriano, respectively.
Despite missing a gold, boxing did win four medals.