Natalie Uy
Track bets target 6 golds
Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Athletics’ Track and Field Association is pinning its hopes again on its crack Fil-Am crew while a number of homegrown talents are ready to deliver when the 30th Southeast Asian Games is fired off in two weeks time at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

Natalie Uy and fellow pole vaulter EJ Obiena are tipped to dominate their events, Carter Lilly is a cinch in the 800m run, Eric Cray is expected to keep his men’s 400m hurdle crown while Kristina Knott and new recruit William Morrison are fancied in the sprint races and shotput, respectively.

But athletics chief Popoy Juico also expressed confidence that his wards will surpass his six-gold medal prediction even as he continued to challenge the possible silver medalists to go for the coveted mints in the centerpiece event set Dec. 5-10 at the 20,000-seat New Clark City stadium inside the sprawling NCC sports complex in Pampanga.

“We keep on telling them (possible silver medalists) that you guys who are capable of silver, ‘Go for it.’ They say a silver can also be gold so ‘Try your best to win the gold,’” said Juico.

In PATAFA’s projections, Juico sees a gold-silver-haul of 6-10-8, better than their 5-3-10 effort in the last SEAG in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

He is also counting on 2017 SEAG silver medalist Harry Diones (triple jump), KL Games gold medal winner Aries Toledo (decathlon) and defending women’s marathon champion Mary Joy Tabal but remained wary of their chances owing to their current form and the depth of the opposition.

“Diones has been a little inconsistent but his ranking is improving, so from silver, he could win the gold,” said Juico. “In decathlon, Toledo is good for a silver although we hope he’ll win again.”

“We urge them to go for it (gold) and give their all for the country,” said Juico, adding that Tabal will also be hard-pressed to defend her crown in the presence of two fancied Thai runners.

“It (gold count) could be anywhere between six to 12 golds. That’s (12) the most optimistic,” said the former Philippine Sports Commission chief.

Morrison, 21, heaved a distance of 20.4 meters in a Bloomington, Indiana meet last June, over two meters better than the 17.42 set by Thai Promrob Juntima in winning the gold medal back in Kuala Lumpur. It is also just half-a-meter short of the Olympic standard of 21.1 that would qualify him for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

So sure is Juico of Morrison’s victory, saying: “Morrison is a candidate for the Olympics because he is throwing in the 20s.”

Another Fil-Am in Cray is the best bet in the men’s 400m hurdles, since he is No. 1 in the SEA rankings while Lilly can go below 1:48.00 in the men’s 800m run.

Obiena and Uy, on the other hand, are the gold and bronze medalists, respectively, in the Asian Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, with both currently holding the No. 1 ranking in the region.

NAHALIE UY
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