[PHOTO AT LEFT - Philippine taekwondo jins (from left) Camille Alarilla, Janice Lagman and Rani Ann Ortega show off their gold medals for their victory in the Poomsae female team competition during the 25th Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane, Laos yesterday. JUN MENDOZA]

VIENTIANE, DECEMBER 10, 2009 (STAR) By Gerry Carpio -Carla Lagman, Rani Ann Ortega and Francesca Alarilla put together their world class act in a superlative show of grace and power in taekwondo’s poomsae competitions and won the country’s first gold as expected yesterday in the 25th Southeast Asian Games.

The trio, fresh from its gold medal performance in the World Poomsae Championships in Cairo, Egypt last week, won the gold with a total of 16.97 points to beat close rival Thailand (16.94) barely three hours before the formal opening of the Games in this former kingdom, which became the Lao Democratic Republic on Dec. 2, 1975.

The Philippines and Thailand were tied at 8.37 in the first part of a difficult routine – the keumgang which involved arm and leg coordination – but the Filipinas made an impressive showing in the second part – the pyongwon, which involved fully-coordinated kicks – to earn 8.60 points. Thailand was slightly behind with 8.57 points.

Vietnam and Indonesia won the consolation bronze in the four-nation competition.

The trio embraced one another in celebration when the results were announced, and Filipino athletes and officials who walked from the nearby Athletes Village to watch the event waived Philippine flaglets to celebrate Team Philippines’ breakthrough gold in the biennial competitions.

The team of Anthony Matias and Sabido brothers Brian and Jean also made a go for it in the men’s side earlier but fell short, settling for the bronze with 16.74 points behind Vietnam (16.93) and host Laos (16.80).

“We are so blessed that we achieved all our goals. First, we won the world championship - now, the SEA Games. I guess we have made history,” Lagman said.

Vietnam’s Chau Tuyet Van, Duong Huynh Mai and Nguyen Thu Ngan wept in the open after yielding the silver to Thailand’s A. Panida, T. Pich-Chapha and Salisa Amnuaychai, who rallied sharply in the second routine to nail 16.94 against the former’s 16.87.

Two critical mistakes by the Philippines’ men’s team in the second routine allowed Vietnam to run away with the gold. Vietnam had actually opened the door for the Filipino trio of Anthony Matias, Brian Sabido and Jean Sabido, scoring merely 8.2 in its second routine after a solid 8.73 in the first.

However, Jean Sabido, who turns 20 today, lost his balance on one foot twice, reducing the team’s score to 8.30 after a strong start of 8.44. The trio eventually finished third while Laos grabbed the silver with a 16.80 (8.50, 8.30).

Ortega and Jean Sabido teamed up later to take the bronze with 16.76 points in the mixed pair won by Vietnam (17.40) and Thailand (17.16). Myanmar shared the bronze with a slightly lower score of 16.63.

The Filipinos were earlier entered in the individual events but dropped out to concentrate on the team competitions.

Counting the silver medal finish of the water polo team Dec. 7, Team Philippines had 1-1-4 gold-silver-bronze medals as action goes into high gear in this city which celebrated 35 years of democratic rule in two-hour rites highlighted with the military parade, march of athletes and the traditional lighting of the SEA Games Flame.

The host, a country with a predominantly agricultural economy and a long history of strife with hostile neighbors which have become its partners, welcomed over 4,000 athletes and officials from 10 countries in a night of dance depicting its rich culture and history and capped the celebrations with fireworks before the hosts entoned “Let the Games Begin.”

Two-time Olympians Tshomlee Go, Antonette Rivero and the rest of the RP taekwondo squad take their turn today as competition revs up on all fronts.

Rivero leads the five jins competing for six golds at the start of sparring event at the Booyoung Gymnasium inside the sprawling National University.

Rivero, 21, is entered in her pet event, the 67kg class (welterweight), where she won a silver medal in the 2007 edition of the biennial meet in Thailand.

The Filipino jins only brought home a single gold from the Thailand SEA Games courtesy of Go, while the others, including Rivero, settled for the silver in the aftermath of alleged dubious officiating that marked the Thailand Games.

“We’re hoping for a good share of the officiating this time,” said team manager Rocky Samson.

“But looking at the draw, I can say we have good chances,” he added.

Other than Rivero, also competing today are Marlon Avenido (80kg), Alexander Briones (over 87kg), Criselda Roxas (73kg) and Kirstie Elaine Alora (heavyweight).

“Everybody has a chance for the gold,” said Alora.

After dropping their opening assignment against Singapore, 1-3, Tuesday, Filipino table netters recovered with a sweep of Cambodia yesterday. They were scheduled to continue their campaign against Indonesia at 7 p.m. today.

Other events on tap today are beach volleyball, karate-do, muay, petanque and lawn tennis.

RP jins claim two more golds By Gerry Carpio (The Philippine Star) Updated December 11, 2009 12:00 AM

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Mary Antoinette Rivero raises her arms in triumph after winning the gold over Nguyen Thi Duong of Vietnam in taekwondo’s women’s welterweight final at Booyoung gymnasium in Vientiane, Laos. JUN MENDOZA]

Vientiane – Two brave taekwondo jins produced the gold medals that gave Team Philippines a little push in its drive for glory as it struggled amidst the loss of its world class billiards players and the withdrawal of 2007 gold medalist Maritess Bitbit in the 25th Southeast Asian Games here yesterday.

Two-time Olympian Mary Antoinette Rivero nailed down the gold, beating Vietnamese bet Nguyen Thi Duong, 9-3, in the welterweight (67 kg) class of taekwondo following silver medal finishes in the 2007 SEAG and in last year’s Asian championships.

Alexander Briones established his dominance in the heavyweight class, crushing Elit Soon of Cambodia, 17-5, to gain the country’s second gold of the day and third overall.

The first gold of the Filipinos came from the poomsae team of taekwondo a day earlier.

The golden efforts of the Filipino jins at least negated the effects of three huge losses – one from the billiards hall, the other from road race and the third from the boxing arena.

World champions Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante crashed out of the 9-Ball doubles competitions right in the first round, and moments later the pair of Reynaldo Grandea and Warren Kiamco got soundly beaten, 3-0, in the English Billiards doubles.

The Philippines also “lost’ one more gold in cycling.

In a noontime conference yesterday, Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco announced that Bitbit, the top gold medal hopeful of the cycling team, also decided not to compete, joining 12 other compatriots who were not allowed by the international cycling federation (UCI) to compete.

And, in an event where the Filipinos are expected to deliver the most number of golds, Fil-Am Ryan Arabejo took only the silver in the 100m freestyle in swimming.

In lawn tennis, the men’s team of Cecil Mamiit, Treat Huey, Johnny Arcilla and Patrick John Arcilla defeated Laos, 3-0, and advanced to the semifinals against Indonesia.

The women’s team edged Vietnam, 2-1, and reached the semis against powerhouse Thailand.

Rivero, silver medalist in the 2007 SEA Games, the 2008 China Asian taekwondo championships and the Vietnam Asian qualifying for the Beijing Olympics, gave her opponent little room for counterattack after earning the first point.

“She wasn’t able to recover after I made the first point,” said Rivero who defeated Laos contender Valy Mathmanisone, 2-1, in the semifinal of the event where only three countries were entered.

The surprisingly lack of entries in the heavyweight class was also a bonus for Briones who only had to beat Dinh Quang Toan of Vietnam, 2-0, in the three-entry division before advancing to the afternoon finals where he easily disposed of Soon.

Briones hurdled Basuki Nugroho of Indonesia, 4-3, in the prelims, Dam Srichan of Thailand in the semis, 4-3, to enter the gold medal round.

Two others who advanced to the finals were not as lucky. Marlon Avenido, fighting in the welterweight (80kg) class, bowed to mighty Vietnamese fighter Luong Minh Dat.

Dat advanced to the finals a formidable favorite after he knocked out Myanmar jin Zar Ni Htun, who was brought unconscious on a stretcher to the hospital.

Kirstie Elaine Alora completely outclassed Lee Wan Yuen of Malaysia, 10-1, in the heavyweight bout where the organizers waived the seven-margin mercy rule but got nipped by Thai Rapatkorn Prasopsuk, 4-3, to settle for the silver.

Middleweight bet Criselda Roxas was eliminated right in the first round, yielding to tough Vietnamese rival Nguyen Ha Thi, 1-0.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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