[Photo at left - World champion Willy Wang flashes gold medal winning form in the nandao (broadsword) event of the wushu competition in the 24th Southeast Asian Games at the Kebkanjana CTech gym in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. Photo by JOEY MENDOZA]

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, DECEMBER 11, 2007 (STAR) By Gerry Carpio -Tanker Miguel Molina swam to his third gold medal while long jumper Henry Dagmil and swimmer Daniel Coakley came away with record-breaking performances. But all these failed to keep the Philippines from dropping to fifth overall heading to the homestretch of the 24th Southeast Asian Games here yesterday.

Striking in athletics and artistics gymnastics, Malaysia overtook RP in fourth place with 24 golds, dropping the 2005 SEAG overall champions to fifth with 22 gold medals. Thailand went unassailably ahead with 78 gold while Vietnam and Singapore kept their 2-3 positions with 39 and 30 gold medal hauls, respectively.

Still, Philippine Sports officials remained hopeful the country’s bets have enough left to salvage at least third heading to the last five days of competitions.

Molina, who earlier topped the 400m and 200m IM, added the 200m breaststroke gold to his cap, matching his output in the 2005 Manila SEAG.

Ryan Arabejo became a double winner himself, handily annexing the 1,500m freestyle to his 200m backstroke victory and jacking swimming’s contribution to the RP cause to five golds.

The exploits of Dagmil and Coakley, plus wushu’s two-gold output earlier Monday, were enough to help ease the sting of setbacks in other fronts.

World wushu champion Willy Wang, leading the combined three events in nanquan after two events late Sunday, completed his domination by winning the third event for a total of 28.60.

Marianne Mariano upstaged Yar Zar Khaing of Myanmar, 2-1, to win the gold in the four-woman under 60 kg class of the sanshou (combat) event.

At the Main Stadium, Henry Dagmil made a record-breaking leap – 7.87 meters – on his first attempt, breaking the mark of 7.81 he set during the Manila SEA Games in 2005.

“I’m happy to have retained my title. I had a feeling I can do it and after virtually making it in my first attempt, what was in my mind was to jump further for the record,” said Dagmil.

Coakley, a 6-foot-1 Filipino-Hawaiian, also had two records for the day, the first a 23.08-second in the morning heats of the 50m freestyle and then resetting it anew with a 22.80 in the evening finals.

His morning clocking already smashed the two-year-old RP record of 23.76s set by Ronald Guiriba in the 2005 SEA Games and his latter try erased the old meet mark of 22.98s.

Horn-tooting hometown fans, waving the national flag and their faces tattooed with the Thai flag, let out deafening cheers for the golden victories of the 1,400-strong Thai contingent which already won 78 gold medals, bigger than the combined output of second-ranked Vietnam (39) and third-placed Singapore (30).

The Philippines won its silver medals in fencing courtesy of the men’s team in the foil event and the women’s team in sabre, wushu through Mary Jane Estmar (women’s under 52 kg) and Benjie Rivera (men’s under 56 kg), and athletics’ Julius Sermona (10,000 m).

There were 10 bronze medals for the Filipinos in Day 5 of action – two each in swimming (Jacklyn Pangilinan and Erica Totte), pencak silat (Asmad Emraida and Abdulhakim Jul-Omar) and muay (Romnick Pabalate and Zaidi Laruan), and one each in athletics, (Emerson Obiena) wushu (Rene Catalan), cycling (John Paul Morales) and fencing (women’s epee team).

Malaysia struck on different fronts to push the Philippines back to fifth place, winning eight gold medals for the day – two in athletics and one each in gymnastics, bowling, cycling, equestrian, squash and wushu.

Before coming here, Philippine sports leaders predicted a gold haul of at least 100, close enough to the 113 it hauled in winning the overall title as host in 2005. Now, these same leaders here predict half of them may not be possible at all.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved