The Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) is one of the most important events in the world of sports as it showcases the best athletes in the Southeast Asian region. The SEA Games, which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will open on August 19 and conclude on August 30. Last year, the Philippines ranked sixth in the standings as the Filipinos garnered 29 gold, 36 silver, and 66 bronze medals.
Now on its 29th edition, the SEA Games has been around for 58 years since its inaugural edition in 1959 in Bangkok, Thailand. As for Malaysia, this will be its fifth time to host the SEA Games.
Donning the Philippine flag
For the biennial event, the National Sports Associations (NSAs) released a list comprising of 497 athletes, 21 of whom, plus two reserves, hail from DLSU.
Geuel Asia of the Green Spikers and Lady Spiker Kim Fajardo, UAAP Season 79’s Best Setter and Best Server, will represent the Philippines in the men’s and women’s volleyball tournaments, respectively. Reigning best receiver Dawn Macandili and 2016 Finals Most Valuable Player Kim Kianna Dy of the Lady Spikers were also placed in the reserves list.
Meanwhile, Michael Del Prado willv compete in the athletics championships. The Green Trackster accumulated two gold, one silver, and two bronze medals in his recent UAAP run.
Alyssa Leonardo of the Lady Shuttlers is set to compete with the national badminton team while reigning UAAP MVP Emy Dael and Jamaica Sy of the Lady Paddlers are set to compete with the table tennis team.
“This is not my first time representing the country, but it’s my first time to play [in the] SEA Games,” said Dael, who previously played in the international stage at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations University Games with fellow Lasallian Yan Lariba. The pair won the bronze medal in the women’s doubles event during last year’s offseason.
“It’s quite different since this is the event that the country is really preparing [for] and they have high hopes for all the athletes to grab a medal. It makes me feel nervous and grateful at the same time,” she added.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Moreno will be the only representative of La Salle in men’s archery. The La Salle Green Hills alumnus won the mixed international team event alongside Li Jiaman during the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. Moreno also served as the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies.
Raphael Mella of the Green Jins and Rinna Babanto of the Lady Jins will also banner the country in taekwondo. The former won a gold medal in the mixed pair poomsae and nabbed silver in the men’s poomsae event in the recently concluded UAAP season. Similarly, the latter won a gold medal in the individual women’s poomsae and a silver medal in the team women’s poomsae event.
Mella is not new to the international limelight, especially to the SEA Games, as he clinched gold alongside Dustin Jacob Mella and Rodolfo Reyes Jr. in 2015. In the same edition of the competition, Babanto took home silver in the individual category and bronze together with Juvenile Faye Crisostono and Jocel Lyn Ninobla.
“It is not my first time representing the country. Now being a veteran at it, I have already adapted to my sport’s international standards,” Mella said.
“We prepared early. Like for this year, we prepare even at the very start of the year and for the year’s competitions. Aside from our normal training hours, we have extra training hours during our team’s common time, to work on conditioning and the like,” Mella concluded.
Additionally, a total of eight players from the DLSU’s men’s and women’s football teams combined were called up to their respective national football teams. Yoshi Koizumi is the lone representative of La Salle in the men’s team while Sara Castañeda, Kyra Dimaandal, Kyla Inquig, Regine Metillo, Irish Navaja, and Inna Palacios of the reigning UAAP Women’s Football champions were called up to the Malditas anew.
All six Lasallians, namely Castañeda (Best Midfielder), Dimaandal (Best Striker), Inquig (Most Valuable Player), Metillo (Best Defender), and Palacios (Best Goalkeeper) received individual accolades and were included in the tournament’s Women’s Team of the Year.
“Like compared to the last year [the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers], in this year’s tournament abroad, my teammates, they were able to perform well,” said Castañeda. “So it was good that they were able to do that and hopefully, this year again, they’ll be able to show how us Lasallians play and will continue to bring out their best,” the incoming junior explained.
Last but not the least, Anicka Castañeda, the younger sister of Sara who is set to make her UAAP debut with the Green-and-White in February, was also called up to the national football team.
Joining the current Lasallian athletes are the alumni who showcased tremendous play during their collegiate days and are hoping to make an impact on the international stage as well.
Former Lady Spikers Abigail Marano and Mika Reyes are set join Fajardo and company in volleyball while former Green Trackster Patrick Unso will join Del Prado in the athletics.
Like Leonardo, Carlos Cayanan, who once suited up for the Green Shuttlers, is set to compete with the national badminton team. Former Green Archer Almond Vosotros will be the lone Lasallian representative in the Smart Gilas Pilipinas Men’s National Basketball Team, which will seek to clinch the country’s 12th consecutive gold medal in basketball.
Taking home a gold medal is the absolute accomplishment for this coming SEA Games, although, representing the country is already a feat on its own. The 23 Lasallians are among a long list of athletes who have prepared almost their entire lives to reach this point and represent their country.