MANILA, November 30, 2005 
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Local officials did not do a very good job turning the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, which was originally built for basketball, into the venue for gymnastics competition in the 23rd SEA Games.

The basketball floor looked too small to hold competitions in floor exercise, vault, uneven bars, balance beam and rings — sometimes simultaneously. There are some areas where the athletes are prone to injuries.

Take the area for the vault competition. The runway is just a couple of feet away from the ringside railings, not all of which have been foamed for protection. The landing pad is so near the ringside entrance where steel railings are also exposed.

One big mistake in landing could mean serious injuries to an athlete. A Singaporean girl yesterday almost banged herself against the ringside railings after a poor landing in the vault. Too good her coach was quick to respond.

Other gymnastics events are being staged at the Rizal Memorial badminton hall and the gymnastics training venue itself.

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Instead of handling the leather, the members of the RP women’s basketball team are handling the Games’ official results at the International Press Center at the PICC.

Led by team captain Che Lubiano and scorer Emilia Vega, the RP cagebelles trained hard for this SEA Games but were disappointed when basketball was scrapped from the official calendar of events.

They’ve taken on their new roles with ease, doing the gathering, collating, photo-copying and distribution of the results to the foreign and local mediamen based at the main press center.

"And they’re all doing it with a smile," said Rhea Navarro, the Filipino contact of the Asian Basketball Confederation and a good friend of the media. She’s here helping the cagebelles perform their new duties.

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Four karatedo entries from Vietnam went down even before they officially competed at the Mandaue Coliseum in Cebu last Monday. Neither from a kick nor a punch but food poisoning.

The Vietnamese athletes, Bui Viet Bang, Mai Xuan Luong, Nguyen Ngoc Chung and Nguyen Bao Linh, were downed by food poisoning after dining at their designated hotel last Saturday, according to the Thanhniennews newspaper.

Bang and Linh encountered stomach problems and diarrhea and took countless trips to the toilet throughout Saturday night. Worse, Bang had to defend his gold medal the following day.

In the semifinal against Malaysia in the team event, Bang was clearly exhausted after only throwing just a couple of blows. He absorbed a 4-7 loss and settled for the bronze.

The two other athletes spent the whole of Sunday resting in their hotel room. The Vietnamese team physician reportedly confirmed that the four athletes were victims of food poisoning.

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The female Thai weightlifter that won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics is in town.

Paweena Thongsukh won the Athens gold in the 75 kgs but has reportedly gone down in weight and will instead compete in the 69 kgs of the 23rd SEA Games.

Paweena, 26, is also a two-time world champion, winning one in the 63 kgs. She’s the most popular athlete in Thailand today but has not made any movie or any commercial–unlike famous Filipino athletes.

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Former First Lady Amelita "Ming" Ramos enjoyed front row view of badminton action at the event’s opener the other day at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Mrs. Ramos, president of the Philippine Badminton Association since 1996, cheered for RP bets alongside husband and former President Fidel V. Ramos, Edgardo Aglipay and thousands of Filipinos who flocked to the venue. Although the two gentlemen left early, the former First Lady stayed and empathized with the Nationals who were axed from the men’s and women’s team competitions.

A badminton champion during her youth, she said she understands the RP shuttlers need more training and exposure abroad before they could cope with the world’s best in the sport.

Mrs. Ramos said she will try to be in attendance in the next few games although she will be busy with a musical concert for the Cambodian Prince which she is a part of.

Sports fan and actor Tirso Cruz III also watched the RP shuttlers debut in this year’s SEAG. — With report from Icy Luzano

RP chessers slowed down in rapid chess The Philippine Star 11/30/2005

The Philippines bowed to Vietnam, 1.5-2.5, last night and settled for a silver medal in the rapid chess team championship at the Tagaytay Convention Center in Tagaytay City.

GM Nelson Mariano II trounced Tu Hoang Thong but GM Eugene Torre and IM Barlo Nadera succumbed to GM Nguyen Anh Dung and Fide Master Le Quang Liem, respectively, as the Filipino chessers missed another crack at the gold medal.

GM Joey Antonio halved the point with GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son.

Truong Son foiled Torre in the semis round of the individual rapid competition Monday and went on to win the gold medal against Indon GM Susanto Megaranto. Torre settled for bronze.

The setbacks in rapid chess have left the Filipinos a difficult task of pulling it off in the standard and blitz events.

"If we don’t win in the rapid team, it will be difficult for us to win the gold in other events," said Samuel Estimo, coach of the national team and secretary-general of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines. "Vietnam is a force to reckon with. They are coached by a Russian world qualifier so we have to be really careful with them."

The RP chessers advanced to the team finals by overpowering Singapore, 2.5-1.5, as Torre regained his composure to power the hosts to the victory with a win over GM Meng Kong Wong. Mariano and Antonio and Nadera settled for draws on the other boards.

With two gold medals gone, the Filipinos hope to do better in the standard competition, which begins today.

Antonio and Torre will be joined in by the country’s young turks in IM Ronald Dableo, last year’s Asian Zonal champion, FIDE Master Oliver Dimakiling and NM Oliver Barbosa.

Also slated is the women’s competition where Sheerie Joy Lomibao and Beverly Mendoza will spearhead the RP team’s bid against a talent-laden field. — Michelle Velete

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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