MANILA, February 18, 2004  (STAR) The Philippines got another gold medal two months after the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games when the Vietnam Organizing Committee declared the Filipinos winner of the men’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay event.

The victory of swimmers Mark Kalaw, Miguel Mendoza, Carlo Piccio and Miguel Molina, earlier nullified by swimming’s organizing body due to an alleged technical infraction, raised the Philippine’s final gold medal tally from 48 to 49.

"This is a big boost for Philippine sports. I am happy for our swimmers who worked hard to win honors for flag and country in Vietnam," said Philippine Olympic Committee president Celso Dayrit, who received the letter (dated Feb. 11) from Vietnam Olympic Committee vice president/secretary general Hoang Vinh Giang late Monday.

According to Hoang, the organizing committee of swimming "found out the mistake made by Omega." Thus, the Philippines was awarded the gold medal, Malaysia the silver, Singapore the bronze and the bronze presented to Thailand was withdrawn.

The Filipinos clocked 7 minutes 42.75 seconds for the event, which they won for the first time in more than a decade.

RP delegation Chef de Mission Julian Camacho signed the letter of appeal, which Dayrit endorsed to the Vietnamese organizers of the 22nd Games.

"Nagbunga rin ang hirap at pagod ng mga bata," said swimming president Monchito Ilagan. "The boys (Kalaw, Mendoza, Piccio and Molina) deserved that gold. We saw the race and we know we won fair and square."

By taking the gold previously credited to the Malaysians, the Filipinos finished six golds ahead of Malaysia in the overall scoreboard.

The victory boosted the Filipinos’ total gold output in swimming to three since Mendoza and Molina had topped the 1500-meter and 200-meter freestyle events.

Camacho, who like Dayrit supported the appeal of Ilagan, sec gen Chito Rivera and other officials and swimmers’ parents during the Vietnam Games, was delighted to hear the good news.

"At least, the swimmers and their supporters were rewarded for their efforts," noted Camacho.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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