LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA November 21, 2005 
(STAR) The National water polo team, brandishing the core of the squad that claimed the bronze in the Vietnam Games, will be the first Filipino bets to see action in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games as it takes on powerhouse Indonesia at the start of aquatics events this afternoon.

The Filipinos and Indons clash in the 4 p.m. opening game at the newly-built Trace Aquatics Center here.

Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA) president Mark Joseph admitted the Indons are going to be tough opponents, but he expects the Filipino polo teamled by veterans Almax Laurel and Sherwin dela Paz to give them a good fight.

"Indonesia is a rough team. They’re hungry for the gold. But we will give them an even rougher time. I think we are technically superior than our opponents" said Joseph, who also bared that the Trace Aquatics Center, built to the cost of P60-million, is ready to host all the aquatic events in the biennial meet.

The RP team is composed of the same roster which won the SEA Games bronze two years ago and the Asia Pacific Championship in Hong Kong in 2003.

In contrast, defending champion Singapore is bringing in a team that is practically new and untested.

But the Filipino polo bets only had two international stints this year — the Asian Championship in China last June and Asia Pacific tourney in Hong Kong.

Aside from dela Paz, the nationals’ team captain, and Laurel others comprising the team are Alan Cesar Payawal, Michael Jorola, Ricardo Dilap Dilap, Norton Alamara, Frazier Alamara, Ali Alamara, Dale Evangelista, Danny dela Torre, Monsueto Pelenio Tani Gomez, Roy Canete.

The water polo event ends on Nov. 25, just two days before the formal opening ceremonies at the Quirino Grandstand.

Everything in place for SEAG By Abac Cordero The Philippine Star 11/21/2005

Except for the basketball brouhaha and some minor kinks here and there, everything is falling into place as far as the preparations for the country’s hosting the 23rd Southeast Asian Games are concerned with the national athletes in high spirits six days into the opening of the keenly awaited sporting conclave at the Luneta Park.

"I guess we’re ready," said Philsoc (Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee) president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, who is also president of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

Cojuangco told The STAR in a recent ambush interview that Philsoc, including its hundreds of workers and thousands of volunteers, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the success of the Games.

"Hopefully, we will be hosting the SEA Games the way we wanted to do so," said Cojuangco, who was virtually directing traffic inside the very busy Philsoc headquarters that day.

President Arroyo will be the main guest during the opening ceremonies on Sunday, which is expected to draw a mammoth crowd. This marks only the third time the Philippines is hosting the SEA Games after 1981 and 1991.

"At least on opening day, the President will be there. The President is very keen on the athletes. She’s more interested in that more than anything else.

"And so, she’s been asking about the preparation of the athletes. And that’s a good sign, not only for the Southeast Asian Games but for the 2006 Asian Games and the Olympics later on," Cojuangco added.

Cojuangco sees no major problem in organization of the 11-nation event. At the same time, he is confident that the close to 800 Filipino athletes will also deliver and help the country become overall champion.

"I think the performance of our athletes will be a lot better than expected. Really. There are some NSAs (national sports associations) that I’ve talked to and they said that their athletes have developed pretty well.

"Even the athletes whom the officials are not expecting too much from are doing a very good job in training. They might just surprise a lot of people," said Cojuangco.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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