MANILA, December 19, 2005 
(STAR) By Joey Villar - The Philippines captured six gold medals yesterday to hike its total to 13 but Thailand proved unstoppable and virtually clinched the overall title with still two days to go in the third ASEAN Para Games at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

The Nationals won two each in chess and table tennis and one apiece in medal-rich athletics and swimming as they overtook the Indonesians and the Singaporeans from seventh place to fifth. The 13-gold medal haul already surpassed the country’s 2003 Hanoi edition performance of two-gold, 15 silver and 23 bronze medals.

National Master Henry Lopez dominated the individual event for both the visually impaired and handicapped as he swept all his five games, including victories over Indonesians Eddy Suryanto and Maxum Firdaus in the final two rounds at the GSIS Hall in Pasay.

Suryanto, who defeated individual handicapped event champion FIDE Master Sander Severino, a polio victim, in the penultimate round, settled for the silver medal and Firdaus took the bronze.

Lopez and the wheelchair-bound Severino, a former national kiddies champion who hails from Silay City, Negros Occidental, then teamed up with Alexis Elinon in the team event to become the first Filipino triple gold medal winners.

Lopez and Severino now have three gold medals apiece with the former also boasting of a silver medal in the individual handicapped event where he finished second to the latter.

The event, sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, PCSO, DPWH, PLDT-Smart, STI, Philpost and Philspada, is held biennially right after the Southeast Asian Games. It is backed by NBN 4, Manila City, American President Lines, Pfizer, Inc., Red Ribbon, Crossover 105.1, DZSR Sports Radio, IBM, Mettephione and GSIS.

Visually impaired Josephine Medina, who was one of the two gold medalists for RP in the 2003 Hanoi edition, powered the host country’s charge in table tennis by accounting for two gold and one silver medals at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

Medina topped the singles event by beating Vietnam’s Tran Nguyen Quynh, who settled for the silver. Viet Thi Kim Van took the bronze.

She then teamed up with Minnie Ramos in the doubles for her second golden effort, outclassing the Vietnamese pair of Viet Thi Kim and Tran Nguyen Quynh, who won the silver.

Medina also took home a silver medal in the mixed doubles with Rogelio Cesar behind eventual winner Vietnam’s Mai Ngoc Trung and Thi Kim Van. The RP duo of Ramos and Pablo Catalan claimed the bronze.

Incidentally, both chess and table tennis failed to deliver gold medals in last week’s 23rd Southeast Asian Games.

"It showed that we have vast potential," said Philippine Asean Para Games Organizing Committee chair Mike Barredo. "It’s only up to us to discover, tap and train them."

Paraplegic Jerico Openio ruled discus throw with a heave of 20.33 meters to complete a golden double at the Rizal Oval. He ruled shot put Saturday to match the two-gold output of one-armed wonder Isidro Vidisola–winner of the 1500m and 800m in Day 3.

Over at the Rizal Pool, it was the turn of partially blind Daniel Damaso to shine as he swam his way to the 200m freestyle gold medal in two minutes and 56.29 seconds late Saturday.

In demonstration sport of sailing, Cherry Pinpin ended up with a bronze medal at the Manila Yacht Club in Manila Bay.

Pinpin actually had a chance for a silver after she was tied with Singaporean Lim Siyuan going into the last race but lost steam to finish third. Lim clinched the silver while Zulkifli of Malaysia grabbed the gold.

At latest count, Thailand, thanks to victories in centerpiece track and field event, judo, weelchair tennis and powerlifting, kept pounding it in as it scooped a total of 81 gold, 44 silver and 17 bronze medals, or almost twice the harvest of Malaysia, which has a 48-gold, 22-silver and 10-bronze medal haul.

Vietnam was at third with a 41-18-14 (gold-silver-bronze) output while Myanmar and RP were at fourth and fifth places with 19-7-3 and 13-23-17, respectively.

Rounding up the standing were Indonesia (13-14-11), Singapore (11-4-5), Brunei (5-4-5), Cambodia (0-2-2) and Laos (0-1-1). Timor Leste has yet to win a medal.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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