Unfair charges tilt balance

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -
Martial arts coach Gerry Marcial insists the Philippines could’ve won more gold medals in taekwondo at the recently concluded Southeast Asian (SEA) Games if only the referees weren’t swayed by charges of unfair officiating.

The Philippines claimed six of the 16 gold medals at stake in the sport.

"It was a pity that some of the referees seemed to be distracted by the ridiculous accusations of biased scoring," laments Marcial, a USA Taekwondo-licensed instructor who flew in from San Mateo, California, just to watch the matches at the Cuneta Astrodome. "That worked against the Philippines because I thought we could’ve won more golds. Perhaps, we should’ve invited more international referees from outside Asia to raise the quality of officiating. They would’ve been able to handle the pressure a lot better."

Marcial says he was impressed by up-and-coming jins like Esther Marie Singson who’s only 19 and high school senior Kristie Elaine Alora. Singson, a SEA Games rookie, beat Juana Wangsa Putri of Indonesia, 4-2, in the bantamweight finals while Alora, also a SEA Games first-timer, trounced Phonkeo Xayyavong of Laos, 12-5, for the featherweight gold.

"Em-Em (Singson) is young, fast and strong," notes Marcial. "With a little more gym work, she’ll be a world contender. She still makes rash decisions. But I like the way she fights. She’s a roughhouser. She’s small and that’s why she has to fight tougher to overpower her opponents."

Marcial is the head trainer at Master Kim Jae Sok’s martial arts gym in San Anselmo, California, and tutors 17 internationally competitive jins and about 75 promising fighters. He’s opening his own gym in Sacramento next year. Marcial, who is working on his fourth dan black belt, was born in Manila and has lived in the US since 1967.

While watching the action at the Astrodome, Marcial was tapped to join Monsour del Rosario and Eugene Rodriguez for expert commentary in the TV coverage of the matches. He wound up behind the microphone for the duration of the competitions.

"It was a great experience for me," says Marcial. "I came to observe the quality of competition at the Southeast Asian level and I enjoyed sharing my insights on TV. I hope I was able to contribute even in a small way to make the fans appreciate the sport more."

A highlight of Marcial’s visit was being introduced to Philippine Taekwondo Association president Robert Aventajado and meeting once more Master Hong Sung Chon.
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The lack of public courts has hampered the growth of squash in the Philippines. A plan to construct a court or two at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex has never materialized.

If the Philippines is serious in developing competitive talent in squash, public courts are necessary to encourage more and more players to try the sport. A widespread grassroots development program for squash will be difficult to launch without public courts. With public courts, it will be easier to form a large talent pool from which to choose future stars.

At the recent SEA Games, Robert Garcia delivered the only medal for the Philippines in squash by bagging the bronze in the men’s individual event. He barely missed playing for the gold, losing a five-set heartbreaker in the semifinals. Garcia is only 19 and has a bright future ahead. Ricky Espinola, the country’s other entry in the men’s division, was a set away from a sure bronze but faltered in the homestretch to lose a five-setter in the quarterfinals.

Did you know that new SEA Games hammer throw record holder Arniel Ferrera owes his victory to Irish priest Fr. Colum O’Halpin and Jerro Perater?

Fr. O’Halpin was Ferrera’s track coach at Binalbagan Catholic College where Perater was also enrolled.

Both Ferrera and Perater barged into the finals of the field event in the recent SEA Games. Ferrera wound up with the gold and Perater, the silver. It was Perater’s third straight SEA Games appearance. He finished fourth in 2001 and 2003.

An education degree holder with a major in math, the 24-year-old Ferrera said he worked hard to break the SEA Games record with a heave of 60.74 meters and made adjustments in his turn to add power to his throw. In the past, he took only three turns before hurling the hammer. Now, he takes four.

"Four things make a good throw–speed, power, rhythm and explosiveness," says Ferrera in Filipino. "Those were the things I worked on in preparing for the SEA Games. My experience in the Asian championships in Inchon, Korea, last September was a big help because although I finished only seventh, I competed against quality throwers from all over Asia."

The second of seven children, Ferrera joined the national pool only four years ago. His father Jenny is a heavy equipment operator for a construction firm in Bacolod and his mother Fortunata is a housewife. Aside from athletics, his other interests are fishing and carpentry.

Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association president Go Teng Kok says the sky’s the limit for Ferrera whose next goal is to throw to a distance of at least 70 meters. The Asian Games record of 78.72 meters was set by Japan’s Koji Mirofushi in 2002. The world record of 86.74 was posted by Russia’s Yuri Sedykh in 1986.

Go says he has asked the First Gentleman to support more foreign exposure for Ferrera and another new SEA Games record holder, 23-year-old Henry Dagmil of Cotabato. Dagmil set a new SEA Games record of 7.81 meters in the men’s long jump last week.

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