DECEMBER 16, 2006
(STAR) By Allan Ronda and Hannah Lamera -  Asian Games gold medalists Violito Payla and Joan Tipon of boxing and Antonio Gabica of billiards arrived to a warm reception yesterday afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino Airport Terminal 1 from an eight-hour trip from Doha, Qatar.

Also with the group, which arrived a day before the closing ceremonies in the desert capital of Qatar, were boxing bronze medalists Genebert Basadre and Godfrey Castro, billiards silver medal winner Jeffrey de Luna and other members of the latest batch of 229 athletes that competed in the 15-day quadrennial meet.

The group arrived at 1:30 p.m. via Qatar Airways flight QR 646.

All the medalists expressed their pride and joy in winning honors for the country, saying their medals were welcome rewards for all the hard work they went through to prepare for the Games.

"I’m very happy for this medal. We put in our very best, we did what our coach told us to and did what we had to do," Tipon, who won the bantamweight gold, told the STAR.

Tipon said he was doubly happy in winning the gold since it gave much pride to the thousands of overseas Filipino workers in Qatar who had taken time off from their work to watch their compatriots compete in the Games.

"We thank the support of our fellow Filipinos in Qatar," said Tipon, who noted the warm reception and accommodation of overseas Filipino workers in Doha.

Payla, like Tipon, expressed his elation that he won a gold for the Philippines, saying he’s sharing it with OFWs in Qatar and his fellow Filipinos here in the country.

"This is for Filipinos. I Thank God for the win," Payla said.

Boxing president Manny Lopez said he was proud of the achievements of the boxers.

"We are very happy that we contributed to the cause of our campaign in the Asian Games. We at the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippine are setting our sights on a greater battlefield — the Olympics," Lopez said. "We would like to thank the Filipino community in Qatar. Their support was overwhelming — they filled the gyms to root for our boxers."

While only winning a silver and losing the gold to Gabica, De Luna said he had no misgivings since the gold was won by a Filipino and assured the Philippine team of a gold.

"I’m happy for my friend. Win or lose, it’s okay since the Philippines was assured of the gold in the all-Filipino final," said De Luna. "To all those aspiring to be good cue artists, go on and perfect your craft."

Ernesto Fajardo, president of the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines, who welcomed De Luna and Gabica upon their arrival, said it came as no surprise to him that the Philippines won a gold in billiards, especially in the case of Gabica.

"I believe it because he wanted to win and he said it with confidence. He said he would train everyday. Well, this guy, in fact, is a model player because he works out regularly in the gym. That’s why he is in top physical and mental condition," said Fajardo.

RP Asiad medal tally best since 1962 By Dante Navarro The Philippine Star 12/16/2006 

DOHA — With the national divers failing to medal late Thursday, the Philippines closed out its Asian Games campaign with four gold medals, six silvers and nine bronzes for its best finish since 1962.

Rexel Fabriga wound up sixth while Jaime Asok 10th in the final of the 10m platform event at the Hamad Aquatic Centre, wrapping up the Filipinos’ stint in this 15th staging of the Games that started out slow but ended with some spark of brilliance.

Thanks to boxers Violito Payla and Joan Tipon, cue artist Antonio Gabica and Rene Catalan, the gutsy wushu fighter who overcame the odds, including tall, heftier rivals to bag the gold medal in the 52kg division of sanshou, Team RP rallied at the finish to salvage 18th place overall.

It was a notch higher than what the Filipinos accomplished in the 2002 Games in Busan, South Korea, which produced a 3-7-16 haul, and it bettered by one silver the 1986 Asian Gamers’ feat in Seoul.

The Filipinos recorded their best showing at home in 1954 when they won 14 golds, 14 silvers and 17 bronzes and had 8-9-21 in Tokyo in 1958.

But after racking up a 7-4-16 haul in the Jakarta Games in 1962, the Filipinos’ performance in the Asiad took a tailspin, winning only two golds, 15 silvers and 25 bronzes in Thailand in 1966, posting a 1-9-12 tally in Bangkok in 1970, making 0-2-10 in Iran in 1974, tallying 4-4-6 in 1978 in Thailand, taking 2-3-9 in India in 1982, winning 4-5-9 in Seoul Games in 1986, settling for 1-2-7 in 1990 in Beijing, winning 3-2-8 in the 1994 in Hiroshima and posting a 1-5-12 tally in 1998 in Bangkok.

RP won three golds, five silvers and seven bronzes in the inaugural Games in India in 1951.

Sports officials have lauded the national athletes’ performance but observers believe there’s much work to be done to improve the Filipinos’ caliber and cope up with the level of competition.

In fact, the main rivals of the Philippines in the regional Southeast Asian Games, which it ruled last year in Manila, finished ahead of it with perennial regional rival Thailand priming up for another dominating performance in the SEAG it would be hosting next year with an impressive fifth place finish here.

The Thais collected 13 golds, 15 silvers and 26 bronze medals.

China also warmed up for the Olympics in Beijing by amassing 164 gold medals, nearly three times more that what runner-up Korea took, as it proved again its overwhelming supremacy in the sporting arena of the world’s biggest continent. The Chinese also won 88 silvers and 63 bronze medals. The Koreans wound up with a 58-53-82 tally while Japan, which used to dominate the Games, settled for third with 50-71-77.

Malaysia placed 10th with 17-17-42 while Singapore wound up in 12th place with 8-7-12.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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