[PHOTO AT LEFT - DOUBLE TAKE: Twins Dhayna and Nicole Lemay of the Philippines compete in the women’s 3-meter synchronized springboard finals of the 24th Southeast Asian Games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. - Photo By JOEYMENDOZA]

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, DECEMBER 15, 2007 (STAR) By Gerry Carpio – Fil-Am Cecil Mamiit provided the shining moment for the Philippines which faced the specter of tumbling down from the top of the SEA Games heap to its worst ever finish in the penultimate day of the regional meet here yesterday.

The Philippines languished at sixth place with a 40-85-95 (gold-silver-bronze) after being overtaken late in the day by Singapore (42) in their last-gasp duel for fifth with Thailand way out in front and Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia battling for the next three places.

Thailand, boosted by its 16 gold medals in boxing, the highest in the sport since 1977, formalized its claim on the overall title with 167 gold medals, followed by Vietnam (64), Malaysia (63) and Indonesia (53).

The Philippines had 13 silver medals for the day, upstaged in various fronts by better-trained athletes from the region’s top four.

The heartbreak losers were silver medalists Lee Van Corteza in 9-ball singles in billiards, Rexel Fabriga in the 10m diving and the pair of Zardo Domenios and Niño Carog in 3m synchronized diving and the men’s and women’s teams in the 500-meter race in traditional boat race.

But Mamiit, the 2005 champion, delighted Team RP by beating Danai Udomchoke in the men’s singles final, putting up a brave stand in front of a noisy hometown crowd and humbling the Thai tennis star, 6-3, 6-0.

It was a sweet revenge for Mamiit, who lost to Udomchoke in the team competitions earlier but claimed the gold that mattered most in the sport in the SEA Games which headed for its closing hours today in various venues.

Still, the Philippines is headed for its worst finish since it joined the SEA Games in 1977. The Philippines finished fifth, its previous worst, in the 1989 Malaysia Games where Vietnam was not yet a major power.

Erineo Toribio, who was disqualified and lost the gold in the under 60 kg class final in karate a day earlier, had been denied the silver as well by the organizers. They returned the medal to the Filipino after they determined he dropped to the canvas after receiving a real, hard blow from his Vietnamese opponent. Under karate rules, a hard blow to the face is not permitted and the player is given a deduction for the infraction.

Corteza bowed to Ricky Yang of Indonesia, 11-8, while Antonio Gabica took the bronze in a playoff with Keng Kwang Chan of Singapore, 11-7, at the close of billiards and snooker competitions.

Billiards and snooker, which the Philippines was expected to dominate despite the absence of world-class cue artists Bata Reyes and Django Bustamante, also became a domain of Thailand which had five golds against three silver and two bronze medals. The Philippines was second with 3-2-4.

The Filipino bowlers were a big disappointment with no gold to show after the close of competitions in the sport where 11 were at stake.

The mixed doubles pair of Biboy Rivera and Liza del Rosario took the silver with 2388 pinfalls behind gold medal winner Zul Mazran and Shalin Sulkifli of Malaysia, which had 2403.

The pair of Constantine King and Mariane Daisy Posadas had 2183 for eighth.

The Philippines is still contending for the gold in today’s men’s doubles in tennis, women’s 10m platform and men’s synchronized 10m platform diving. Danica Calapatan is also in the finals in the club event in rhythmic gymnastics. Steven Virata will conclude the Filipinos stint in the finals of the show jumping and dressage events in equestrian.

Meanwhile, the pair of Parely Tupaz and Rhovyl Verayo ended the Philippines’ campaign in beach volleyball with a 21-15. 21-15 loss to Indonesia in the quarterfinals.

The fancied pair of Heidi Ilustre and Diane Pascua also failed to reach the semis earlier, losing to Indonesia, 11-21, 23-21, 16-14. The tandem of Michelle Laborte and Michelle Carolino also lost in the quarterfinals to Thailand, 21-15, 21-19.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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