Squashers post gains but no medals
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2018 - 12:00am

The Philippines registered gains in only its second appearance in squash at the Asian Games in Jakarta but there will be no podium finish for the team of four men and four women. Competition isn’t over in the team events but the Philippines is now out of contention.

In the men’s team, the Philippines plays Nepal today and Japan tomorrow to close out its campaign after losing to Hong Kong, 3-0, and to South Korea, 2-1. In the women’s team, the Philippines will face South Korea today and Pakistan tomorrow to wind up its Pool A assignments after bowing to Japan, 3-0 and to Malaysia, 3-0.

At the 2010 Asian Games, the Philippines marked its debut in squash with Myca Aribado and Aysah Dalida who were both trounced in their first matches in women’s singles. Aribado was booted out by India’s Joshna Chinappa, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 while Dalida fell to Japan’s Misaki Kobayashi, 11-6, 11-4, 11-4. There were no men in the Philippine team that year.

The Philippines skipped squash at the 2014 Asian Games but after bagging an unprecedented haul of two silvers and six bronzes at the SEA Games last year, the squashers were given a chance to compete in this year’s Jakarta event. The possibility of collecting a medal was remote but the goal was to toughen up for the SEA Games which the Philippines will host next year. 

So far, the Philippines has won four matches in Jakarta, a first in local squash history. The Philippines had never won a match in the Asian Games until this year. Leading the charge is the country’s No. 1 player Robert Garcia who took out Singapore’s Timothy Leong Yew Sing, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6 in the Round-of-32 singles and disposed of South Korea’s Ko Youngjo, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10 in the team event. Also picking up wins were Aribado who beat Iran’s Hadis Farzad, 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5 and Dalida who whipped Mongolia’s Uyanga Amarmend, 11-0, 11-0, 11-2, both in the Round-of-32 singles.

Aribado advanced to the Round-of-16 singles only to face her nemesis in 2010, the third seed Chinappa. This time, Aribado put up a tougher stand against the world No. 16 although she still lost in straight sets, 11-2, 11-8, 12-10. Dalida moved to the Round-of-16 singles to meet world No. 11 Annie Au of Hong Kong and yielded to the second seed, 11-1, 11-4, 11-4.

Garcia, 32, nearly won his match against Hong Kong’s Max Lee in the team event and dropped an 11-6, 11-5, 5-11, 5-11, 11-3 decision. He also went five sets in beating Ko in the South Korea tie. 

Aribado, 24, snatched a set from Satomi Watanabe in the Japan team duel but couldn’t take another in falling, 11-9, 10-12, 11-8, 11-5. In the same tie, Dalida, 25, met her 2010 rival Kobayashi and lost, 11-9, 11-6, 11-1. Rina Borromeo, 39, lost to Risa Sugimoto, 11-0, 11-2, 11-2, in the third match. Against Malaysia in the team event, Aribado faced former world champion and back-to-back Asian Games singles champion Nicol David. She put up a strong fight in the first set before losing, 13-11 then crashed out, 11-7, 11-2. Dalida was overpowered by Low Wee Wern, 11-2, 11-2, 11-2 and Andrea Jemiolo, 17, gained valuable experience in bowing to this year’s singles silver medalist Sivasangari Subramaniam, 11-8, 11-2, 11-1.

MacMac Begornia, 26, took the first set, 11-3, against Lee Seung Taek in the South Korea team tie but faltered to lose the next three, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7. A win by Begornia would’ve sealed a 2-1 count for the Philippines. Begornia also saw action in the Hong Kong tie, falling to Henry Leung, 11-4, 11-4, 11-4.

David Pelino, 25, got the nod to play in the singles and lost to Kuwait’s world No. 90 Ammar Al Tamimi, 11-2, 11-3, 11-9. In the Hong Kong tie, he was beaten by Yip Tsz Fung, 11-2, 11-2, 11-2 and against South Korea, lost to Lee Sehyun, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5. Only Dondon Espinola, 22, has not played in Jakarta.

While the Philippines will return home from the Asian Games without a medal from squash, the experience that the eight-strong team gained has made the campaign worth it. Waiting in the wings to join the national pool, possibly for the next SEA Games, are Filipino-Malaysian and former world No. 120 Valentino Bong and three Filipino teenagers based in New Zealand, Gabe Yam, Matt Lucente and Rafa Yam. The performance in Jakarta has cemented a foundation for Philippine squash from which to build on for the future.

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