Squashers gird for SEA Games
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2019 - 12:00am

After capturing a breakthrough gold medal in men’s singles at the 5th Southeast Asian Squash Cup here last month, the Kayod Pilipinas squad continues to work harder on the court with more international exposure in preparing for the SEA Games late this year.

Philippine Squash Academy (PSA) president Bob Bachmann said six gold medals will be at stake in the sport at the SEA Games – men’s singles, women’s singles, mixed doubles, mixed team, men’s jumbo doubles and women’s jumbo doubles. The squad that will represent the country is still being formed but the pool includes Robert Garcia, MacMac Begornia, David Pelino, Myca Aribado and Aysah Dalida who battled in the recent SEA Squash Cup. Youth discovery Christopher Buraga, 12, was in the SEA Squash Cup lineup as a reserve.

Bachmann said Fil-New Zealand players Rafa Yam and Matthew Lucente will not be available for the SEA Games but one or two Fil-Am standouts may be tapped. “Rafa is injured and requires surgery,” he said. “Matthew can’t play for the Philippines because of the World Squash Federation’s three-year eligibility rule, having represented New Zealand. It’s the same rule that applies to Rafa’s brother Gabe. But we may add one or two players from the US. It’s a long shot but we’ll try. The Fil-Ams whom we’re hoping to bring in are Emma Carney, Cody Cortes and Andrea Jemiolo.”

Carney, 17, is from Connecticut and has participated in the US Junior U19 and British Junior  U17 and U19 Opens. She’s a mainstay of the Greenwich Academy team that has won the US high school Division I squash title the last four years. Cortes, 23, played four years of varsity squash at Princeton University. Two older sisters Cecilia and Casey were also Ivy League squash players. Jemiolo, 18, is from Connecticut and played for the Philippines at the Asian Games last year.

At the Professional Squash Association World Tour tournament in Kuala Lumpur last April 23-26, the Philippines was represented by Garcia and Aribado. Garcia made it to the quarterfinals where he lost to second seed and eventual champion Addeen Idrakie of Malaysia, 11-8, 14-12, 11-9. Garcia defeated Malaysia’s Duncan Lee, 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 in the first round and India’s Aadit Zaveri, 13-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-7 in the second. Aribado went to the semifinals where she was defeated by Malaysia’s Ooi Kah Yan, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5. She earlier nipped Japan’s Risa Sugimoto, 11-4, 7-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-8 and repulsed Malaysia’s Heng Wai, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7.

Then, early this month, the Philippines sent Garcia, Begornia, Pelino and Aribado to compete at the Asian Individual Squash Championships in Kuala Lumpur. Each player went beyond the first round. Garcia upset world No. 75 Henry Leung of Hong Kong, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 11-7 in a 55-minute battle. Begornia turned back Thailand’s Phuwis Poonsiri, 11-8, 12-10, 13-11. Pelino whipped Kuwait’s Al Alshammiri, 11-7, 11-2, 11-1. Aribado crushed Thailand’s Tuddaw Thamronglarp, 11-4, 11-4, 11-8. However, the Philippine bets were bundled out in the second round with Garcia falling to Malaysia’s Mohammad Adnan, 13-11, 11-8, 15-13, in a 44-minute match, Begornia losing to Pakistan’s Asim Khan, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9, in a 33-minute encounter, Pelino bowing to India’s Saurav Ghosal, 11-5, 11-2, 11-2 and Aribado ousted by Hong Kong’s Joey Chan Ho Ling, 11-5, 12-10, 8-11, 11-1.

The next exposure is scheduled at the World Doubles Championships in the Gold Coast, Australia, on June 17-21. “Overall, I’m very pleased with our team’s performance at the SEA Squash Cup considering both our girls are still managing their injuries,” said Bachmann. “We are 70-80 percent ready. We’ll make the necessary adjustments leading to the SEA Games.”

Southeast Asian Squash Federation president Mohamad Azlan Iskandar recently lauded the PSA’s successful staging of the SEA Squash Cup and the governing body’s annual general meeting. In a letter to Bachmann, Iskandar said “your tireless involvement in pre-championship preparations and again being hands-on in all aspects for the duration of the events was truly remarkable and commendable … it was a privilege to have experienced the noted warmth hospitality of the Filipinos.” Iskandar added that “the championship recorded a few firsts including an informative and updated Facebook site (which) carried updated stories, match reports, live update of results, a continuous flow of photos and video clips of matches … the accommodation at the Shangri-La Hotel was par excellence and would be hard to match in the future … the courts (in Kerry Sports) were superb and being located within the hotel made the stay of everyone extra comfortable and most convenient.”

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