One of the biggest and most anticipated sporting events in Philippine sports is the South East Asian Games (SEA Games). Celebrated every two years, athletes from various sporting disciplines in Southeast Asia are given the chance to showcase their talents and skills on one of the more prestigious stages in the region.
In the last several editions of the SEA Games, the performance of the Philippines has steadily declined as the medal hauls decreased gradually — that is, until this year. Compared to the last season back in 2013, the country’s ranking has moved up by one, placing sixth in the overall tally with a total of 29 gold, 36 silver, and 66 bronze medals.
This would not have been possible without the collective efforts of the numerous athletes who represented the country, a number of whom are Lasallians who worked hard to make it to the podiums of their respective sports.
Green Jin Raphael Mella participated in the Men’s Poomsae team together with his brother Dustin Mella and Rodolfo Reyes Jr., bringing home a gold medal for the Philippines with a final score of 7.850, thus successfully defending their championship title in that event. Meanwhile, in the women’s division, Lady Jin Rinna Babanto placed second in the women’s individual event with a score of 7.480.
Prior to this, these Lasallian jins performed well in the poomsae event of the UAAP. In Season 77, Mella came away with a gold and silver medal from the men’s team event, 7.750, and the men’s individual event, 8.160, respectively. Babanto meanwhile came in first in the women’s individual event with a scoring output of 8.290.
The Gilas Cadets have always been the team to watch out for in the SEA Games because of how far they have dominated the competition, losing the championship title only once in 1989. This year, they successfully defended their crown against a more improved field.
The Gilas Cadets roster in the recent SEA Games was composed of young players from both the collegiate level and the PBA D-League. Green Archer Prince Rivero and former Green Archers Almond Vosotros and Norbert Torres represented La Salle throughout the team’s campaign.
Vosotros was the most consistent among the three, appearing frequently as one of the team’s top scorers with his ability to score three pointers efficiently. Torres, on the other hand, helped the team with his rebounds during his time on the court. And although rarely utilized throughout the tournament, Rivero did not disappoint when he was put on the court as he scored 24 points in their match against the newest participant of the tournament, Timor-Leste.
Despite the slight blunder he suffered in the early parts of the race, former DLSU Green Tanker, Nikko Bryan Huelgas finished first in the men’s triathlon event with a time of 2:04:32, over a minute ahead of the silver medalist. It was indeed a dream come true for the young triathlete who was claimed to have been eyeing the SEA Games since 2005.
Huelgas later shared to Marisse Panaligan of GMA News that it wasn’t his effort alone that allowed him to perform that well. He said that if it weren’t for his teammate Jonard Saim’s words of encouragement after helping him up from his bike slip, he would not have finished the race with the victory.
Former Green Shuttler Ronel Estanislao, together with his doubles partner, Philip Joper Escueta, advanced to the semifinals after their victory against Cambodia in the men’s division badminton doubles. Their campaign, however, was cut short as they fell to Indonesia and had to settle for a bronze medal.
Track and Field
Green Trackster Patrick Unso won a bronze medal in the 110m hurdles event, breaking the previous national record with a personal best of 14.12 seconds, which is an achievement in itself considering he missed the 2013 edition of the SEA Games due to a hamstring injury.
Another former Lasallian athlete, Gabriella Estimada grabbed two podium finishes in fencing. She, along with her teammates Harlene Raguin, Hanniel Abella, and Keren Pangilinan advanced to the women’s team epée finals, where they lost to Vietnam, but claimed the silver medal. In the women’s team foil, the team reached the semifinals but they fell to Singapore, therefore placing them at third.
With all these achievements gained from the event, the hard work these athletes have put into their respective sports made it worthwhile. The experience they gathered will surely help them in future events such as the UAAP or even in the next edition of the SEA Games. With or without these podium finishes, they have certainly earned the respect of their countrymen for the way they represented the nation and the pride they carried themselves with.