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Sports

Myca bags historic squash gold

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Never in the 50-year history of Philippine squash had a female player captured a championship in an international tournament abroad so Myca Aribado’s feat at the 3rd Menpora Kijono Cup in Jakarta over the weekend was reason to celebrate.

Philippine Squash Academy (PSA) president Robert Bachmann said yesterday Aribado’s unprecedented podium finish was a result of hard work, close monitoring and support from the POC and PSC. Aribado, 22, stunned Malaysia’s Teh Min Ern, 11-7, 11-2, 9-11, 11-8 to claim the first prize trophy and a check for 7.5 Million Indonesian rupiah or the equivalent of P25,600.

On the way to the final, Aribado disposed of Indonesia’s Nilvia Sartika, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7, Indonesia’s Fitriani, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 and Singapore’s Sherilyn Yang, 11-8, 11-7, 11-4. The country’s No. 1 male player Robert Garcia salvaged a bronze in the playoff for third by outlasting World No. 144 and second-seed Valentino Bong of Malaysia in five grueling sets, 11-6, 11-7, 13-15, 3-11, 11-9. It was a rematch between Garcia and Bong who figured in the final of the recent 1st PSA Open at the Makati Sports Club. Garcia beat Bong, 11-5, 12-10, 12-10 for the crown.

Bachmann said Aribado controlled the match against Teh from the onset but yielded the third set as the Malaysian stormed back to avert a shutout. Aribado settled down in the fourth set to clinch. But Garcia’s match for the bronze was a cliffhanger. “Robert led, 2-0, until exhaustion kicked in,” said Bachmann. “Valentino pulled every shot in his arsenal, including a couple of dive shots, to tie it, 2-2. In the fifth, Robert hit a boast that Valentino chased down and it seemed like he hurt his knee moving in. The match went down to the wire in an incredible ending.”

In the semifinals, Garcia bowed to World No. 127 and top seed Elvinn Keo of Malaysia, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9. “The loss taught us a valuable lesson,” said Bachmann. “It affirmed that the key to the development of our players lies in international exposure and experience. Robert was on the defensive throughout, moving, running and second-guessing Elvinn’s shots. Elvinn’s consistency and wide repertoire of shots were the winning factors. It’s not too late for Philippine squash. It’s quite clear what steps need to be taken. We’ll move forward as we always do and work hard to improve on our weaknesses and embrace and build on our strengths.”

Garcia, 30, previously defeated Indonesia’s Satria Bagus Laksana, 11-9, 10-12, 11-3, 11-5, Indonesia’s Mohammed Faisal, 15-13, 11-6, 11-8 and Singapore’s Marcus Phua, 17-15, 11-4, 6-11, 6-11, 12-10.

The Philippine squad also sent David Pelino, 22, and MacMac Begornia, 23, to Jakarta. Pelino won his first match, beating Indonesia’s Agung Wilanto, 11-5, 12-10, 11-6 then was bundled out by Bong, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4, in the second round. Begornia took out Pakistan’s Murtaza Khan, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-4 in the first round then lost to Singapore’s Samuel Kang, 11-7, 11-2, 11-4. Every player on the national team scored a victory, another milestone in the history of Philippine squash.

Aribado began to hit her stride after Dutch businessman Louis Bronsveld and his Filipina partner Jennifer Bacatio brought the University of Makati sports officiating graduate to Amsterdam for an intensive three-month training before the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games last year. With renewed confidence, Aribado became the first Filipina ever to medal in squash at the SEA Games. The Philippines also brought back two more bronze medals from the SEA Games.

In Taipei last month, the Philippines improved on its 14th place finish two years ago to wind up 10th at the 18th Asian Squash Team Championships. The Philippines not only raised its standing but also surpassed expectations as it was seeded 12th in the tournament.

“Things are picking up for Philippine squash,” said Bachmann. “We’ve got a P6.1 Million budget, up from P3.4 Million last year and we’re using it efficiently. The PSC is building a squash hub, with two air-conditioned public courts, at the Rizal Memorial and we’re now planning a major tournament for the inauguration in October. Our goals are to upgrade the standards of our elite players and to promote squash as a sport for all and a sport where we can excel internationally. There’s a reason why Forbes called squash the world’s healthiest sport.”

Bachmann said the PSA plans to introduce squash at the Palarong Pambansa and is now exploring the possibility of building a portable court made of Hardiflex walls to transport to the provinces. Once squash is exposed in the countryside, Bachmann said he hopes the LGUs will pick up the cudgels in constructing permanent courts.

“It’s essential to continue holding competitions,” said PSA secretary-general Vince Abad Santos. “In August, we’ll do the second PSA Open, probably at the Palms Country Club. Then, the third PSA Open will be at the Rizal courts with a $5,000 pot prize for professionals from the international circuit. We are also considering to invite Papua New Guinea to play our national team to inaugurate the Rizal courts.”

Abad Santos said the PSA is making the rounds of squash courts in Metro Manila and exposing the national team to promote the sport. “We estimate at least 500 squash players in the country, about 150 regularly active and 35 squash courts in Metro Manila and Batangas,” he said. “We’ve got squash courts in private condos and sports clubs. For the two squash courts at Kerry Sports in the Shangri-La Hotel, Global City, we’ve arranged that for anyone who wants a coach or trainer, to give us a six-hour lead time and we’ll provide. For the future, we’re looking at teenagers Rafa Yam, Gabe Yam and Matthew Lucente who are based in New Zealand and our juniors, Sandro Gotuaco, John Paul Mangahis, Joan Aribado and Cente Abad Santos to continue making us competitive internationally.”

MEDIA

RODRIGO DUTERTE

THANKSGIVING PARTY

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