HANOI, VIETNAM, December 6, 2003  (MALAYA) By NOLI CORTEZ  - Members of the RP women's team cried again.

This time, however, they shed tears of joy after the Filipinas beat Malaysia 218-211 in the archery finals Friday to give the Philippines its first gold medal in the 22nd Southeast Asian Games at the National Sports Training Centre 1 here.

Jasmin Figueroa, Rachelle Anne Cabral and Jennifer Chan hardly wavered in their drive from the start of the head-to-head duels, mowing down Thailand (230-195) in the quarterfinals and top-seed Indonesia (226-224) in the semifinals before fashioning the come-from-behind victory over Malaysia.

The elation following the stirring win was tempered by the men's team's 231-234 loss to Malaysia later in the day.

The Filipinos vented their ire on Thailand with a masterful 236-218 win in their battle for the bronze medal while the Malaysians went on to capture the gold with a 236-232 conquest of Indonesia.

The RP lady archers' gold came on the heels of Florante Matan's bronze medal in the individual side last Thursday and took shape in the presence of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, POC president Celso Dayrit, chief of mission Julian Camacho and other top RP sports officials who trooped to the site.

The win also helped soothe the pain of the RP team's 7-9 loss to Thailand in water polo over at the National Aquatics Sports Complex, leaving the Filipinos with only the bronze.

The gold, plus the men's gymnastics team's third place finish last Thursday, gave the Philippines a 1-0-4 gold-silver-bronze performance with the opening ceremony yet to start.

All but one of the seven RP entries Friday made it to the finals of rowing while the Filipina tennisters made up for their male counterparts' dismal start over at the Lan Anh Club in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sydney Olympian Benjie Tolentino led the astounding charge of the Filipino rowers past the eliminations, towing with him brother Rowell, Charimel Alastre, Mark Anthony Galvez, Alvin Amposta, Nestor Cordova and Jose Rodriguez at the Ho Tay Boating Club at Hanoi's West Lake.

The tandem of Emilou Babanto and Maria Fornea failed to make it past the qualifying of the women's lightweight double sculls, but hope to rebound through the lightweight pair.

Patricia Ann Santos crushed Myanmar's Zaw Kyi Mya 6-1, 6-1 and Czarina Mae Arevalo routed Tun Amy, 6-1, 6-0.

Not as lucky were Joseph Victorino who got a 2-6, 2-6 whipping from Prima Simpatiaji of Indonesia and Johnny Arcilla, a 2-6, 6-3, 3-6 victim of Febi Widhiyanto.

The RP sepak takraw teams also made it to Saturday's circle finals after Friday's qualifying. The men's squad earned 1,495 points to place second behind Vietnam (1,518) while the Filipina lady kickers landed fourth in their side after scoring 1,262.

"Para sa mga kababayan natin ito," enthused a jubilant Dayrit, who arrived only late Thursday and was not on hand when the female archers and the three other male archers got wiped out in the playoffs earlier in the week. Those losses caused the eight-member team to cry. Not this time.

"Hindi talaga kami papayag na ma-shutout," said national archery association secretary-general Ligaya Manalang, whose charges accounted for a 1-0-0 haul in the 2001 edition of the games in Kuala Lumpur.

There were anxious moments when the Filipina trio started the championship showdown shakily, trailing Malaysia 68-74 and later 139-145.

There was no denying the Filipina archers after that, however, especially when Cabral opened up with a 24, followed by Figueroa's smashing 28. Chan then closed the door with a 27.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved