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Biggest winner was absent

The cash incentives for medal winners in the recent SEA Games were given out at Malacañang the other day with the windfall topnotcher Trenten Beram, whose bank account got a deposit of P700,000, absent from the proceedings attended by President Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Presidential Adviser for Sports Dennis Uy, officer-in-charge of presidential protocol Robert Borje, PSC chairman Butch Ramirez, POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr., Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Reps. Conrad Estrella III, Chiqui Roa-Puno, Monsour del Rosario and Pia Cayetano, PSC commissioners Ramon Fernandez and Charles Maxey and NSA officials including Philip Juico of athletics, Julian Camacho of wushu, Monico Puentevella of weightlifting, Bob Bachmann of squash, Sonny Barrios of basketball, Ed Picson of boxing and Dave Carter of judo.

It was a glittering cast of athletes that greeted the Chief Executive at the Rizal Hall. In his remarks, President Duterte lauded the efforts of the Filipino medalists and confirmed the country’s hosting of the next SEA Games in 2019. He handed out citations to the gold medalists in attendance and chatted with them as they came up on stage. 

Beram, 21, was the only Filipino athlete to bag more than one gold medal, topping the 200-meter distance with a time of 20:84 and 400 meters at 46:39. The New York-born math major wasn’t the only gold medalist who couldn’t make the Palace appointment. The entire basketball team was absent as players and coaches were either at practice or involved in the PBA games that night. Another Fil-Am trackster Eric Cray, who took the gold in the 400-meter hurdles, was back in the US. 

Fil-Brit lightheavyweight boxer John Marvin had asked if he could be excused to report back to duty as a lance corporal in the Princess of Wales Regiment in the British Army stationed in Germany. Marvin, 24, was the sensation of SEA Games boxing, scoring a 21-second stoppage in the final to deliver the first Philippine gold medal in the 81-kilogram division since Raymundo Suizo in 1991. His mother Teresita Tupas is from Pampanga and was at ringside in Kuala Lumpur with her husband John Sr., a former professional singer. 

Other missing gold medalists were Kaitlin de Guzman of gymnastics, Marion Mangrobang of triathlon, Mariya Takahashi of judo and Aries Toledo of athletics. They each received P300,000 as bonus provided by law and an extra P50,000 from Uy through the Siklab Atleta Pilipinas Foundation. De Guzman, 18, was born in Mandaluyong and is enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. Guzzie’s mother Cintamoni was a 1995 SEA Games gold medalist in the uneven bar, the same event which she topped in K. L. Mangrobang, 26, is from Santa Rosa, Laguna, and improved from a silver finish in 2015 to a gold this year with a time of 2:11:14. Takahashi, 16, would’ve been a nice surprise for President Duterte as her mother is from Davao. Toledo, 23, is from Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija and emerged as the SEA Games ironman for clinching the decathlon gold.

Among the gold medalists who attended, judo’s Kiyomi Watanabe had the loudest applause as the 21-year-old Fil-Japanese was introduced as having won the gold medal in the last three SEA Games since 2013. Watanabe was born in Cebu and left for Japan at the age of eight. She studies sports science at Waseda University and is proud to represent her mother Irene Sarausad’s homeland in international competitions. What’s remarkable is Watanabe’s discipline not only in performing at a high level over the years but also in maintaining her weight as she has competed in the 63-kilogram division in three consecutive stagings of the SEA Games. Another gold medalist who drew loud applause was 46-year-old rider Colin Syquia, the oldest in the group of achievers. Syquia took the gold in showjumping aboard Adventure E. It was the first international competition for the magna cum laude graduate in Business Administration from Iona College, a Christian Brothers school in New York.

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Women’s marathon winner Mary Joy Tabal, 28, was the first athlete to be called on stage as she presented her gold medal to the President. The 4-11, 99-pound runner took the silver at the 2015 SEA Games then qualified for the Rio Olympics and clocked 2:48:46 to top the 42-kilometer event in K. L. Other gold medalists who were given citations by the President were Nikko Huelgas of triathlon, Reyland Capellan of gymnastics, Agatha Wong of wushu, Brennan Louie of fencing, Eumir Marcial of boxing, Samuel Morrison of taekwondo, Carlo Biado of billiards, Chezka Centeno of billiards, Dines Dumaan of pencak silat, the ice hockey team, the men’s taekwondo poomsae team of Dustin Mella, Raphael Mella and Rodolfo Reyes and the lawn bowls men’s fours of Curte Guarin, Emmanuel Portacio, Leoncio Carreon and Ronald Lising. 

The bronze medalists were represented by Pauline Lopez of taekwondo and the silver medalists by Geylord Coveta of windsurfing in receiving congratulations from President Duterte on stage.

PATAFA president Philip Juico said if only the Malaysian organizers didn’t stack the odds against Cray in cramping the schedule of his events, he could’ve won two more golds. A third gold from athletics would’ve come from pole vaulter E. J. Obiena who suffered a knee injury in practice days before leaving for K. L. Philippine Squash Academy president Bob Bachmann said a gold would’ve been in the bag in the men’s team event if only Fil-Malaysian coach Valentino Bong had cleared the three-year residency rule. The Filipino squashers lost to Singapore, two matches to one, in the final but Bong could’ve reversed the outcome if he played. Bong was released by the Malaysian federation in 2015 and will only be eligible to play for the Philippines next year.

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