MANILA, Philippines - It’s not often that Filipino siblings enter the record books as gold medalists in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Among those who made it were Lee and Rene Concepcion of swimming, Arlo and Ronald Chavez of boxing, Jennifer and Gerald Rosales of golf.
In Laos, golfer Mia Piccio joined her brother Carlo in the SEA Games honors list as she combined forces with Chihiro Ikeda and Dottie Ardina to capture the gold medal in the women’s team event last Monday.
Carlo won his gold medal with the 4x200-meter men’s freestyle relay swimming team at the SEA Games in Vietnam six years ago.
The Piccios’ father Ernesto, a hotel owner in Bacolod, said yesterday he never imagined his children would become outstanding athletes because sports isn’t really in the family genes.
“I was with Tommy Manotoc on the La Salle seniors golf team as a freshman but that was only for a year then I gave it up to concentrate on my studies,” said Ernesto. “When I was in high school, I played basketball for La Salle Bacolod. But I couldn’t be considered an outstanding athlete.”
As doting parents, Ernesto and wife Gina encouraged their children to excel in whatever they chose to do. Carlo, 28, ended his career after the Vietnam SEA Games in 2003. His collection includes a silver in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the Brunei SEA Games in 1999 (becoming the first Filipino to clock below 16 minutes) and a silver in the 400-meter individual medley at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2001. The University of Cincinnati graduate and 2000 Sydney Olympian is now taking up medical-related studies at Long Beach College.
The Piccios’ other daughter Patricia, 25, lives in Los Angeles and works in sales. She dabbled in swimming for a while but never got seriously into the sport.
“To be called to represent your country in any sport is an honor in itself,” said Ernesto. “To do well is gravy. We’re lucky to be blessed with outstanding children – Carlo, Patricia and Mia make us very proud.”
Mia’s recent accomplishment is another feather in the Piccios’ cap.
“Mia studies at the University of Florida where she is a full golf scholar,” said Ernesto. “Luckily, she was exempted in the exams of all her subjects except one and she took that test early. She hooked up with Dottie in Atlanta then they flew together to Manila, stayed a few hours in the airport and went straight to Laos with Chihiro. Mia barely had time to sort out her clothes, leaving some behind, before flying out again.”
In the women’s team event, the Philippines beat Thailand for the gold medal by three strokes. Ikeda’s scores in the three rounds were 71-69-70. Ardina’s were 78-70-70 and Mia’s were 75-76-72. The best two scores of the three players counted in each round.
“Mia’s score on the first day counted but to show you how tough the competition was, her par-72 on the third round didn’t even count,” said Ernesto. “We are grateful to Mr. Enrique Razon for supporting Philippine golf and the coaching staff of the women’s team headed by Bong Lopez.”
If the pros are excluded at the Asian Games in Guangzhou next year, Mia said she hopes to compete with Ikeda and Ardina once more. But if the pros are allowed in, it’s likely the country’s 2008 World Cup champion pair of Dorothy Delasin and Jennifer Rosales will anchor the squad.
No Philippine women’s team has ever won a gold medal in golf at the Asian Games. Ruby Chico, Yvette de Leon and Mary Grace Estuesta bagged a bronze in 1990. Delasin, Rosales and Ria Denise Quiazon also claimed a bronze in 1998. Heidi Chua, Quiazon and Carmelette Villaroman collected the country’s third bronze in 2002.
When golf makes its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Mia will be a few months shy of 25 and should be at her peak.
Despite his children’s achievements in sports, Ernesto said he’s not at peace until he settles an unresolved issue with the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA).
“The PASA leadership has been in power for a long time,” said Ernesto. “Our gold medals from the SEA Games in Vietnam six years ago have been due even longer. We have pleaded for the recovery of our medals but no result.”
Ernesto recalled that in Vietnam, the 4x200 meter Philippine men’s freestyle relay swimming team found a way to win against all odds.
“Ask Miguel Molina who’s the only remnant of the team still competing for the country,” he continued. “Mark Kalaw, Miguel Mendoza and Carlo have long retired. The medals are still to be accounted for despite our pleadings.”
In Vietnam, the Philippine team was wrongly disqualified after topping the relay event and Malaysia was awarded the championship. Under FINA (Federacion Internacional Natacion Amateur) rules, a formal protest must be filed within 30 minutes of an incident and a $35 bond must be paid. But no formal protest was ever filed. It took a few days for the Philippines to appeal for justice after reviewing a computer printout that showed the reason for the disqualification was a mistake due to a glitch. Because the evidence was overwhelming, FINA decided to restore the Philippine victory as the disqualification was clearly unjustified.
The question is – where are the gold medals? It’s been six years since Vietnam and still, the medals haven’t been delivered to their rightful owners. Apparently, Malaysia has refused to surrender the gold medals that are nowhere to be found.