THE Philippine sepak takraw team is keeping a positive attitude in the coming 31st Southeast Asian Games despite the difficult situations in the past two and a half years due to the pandemic.
Pilipinas Sepak takraw Federation president Karen Tanchanco-Caballero expressed confidence that the Filipino athletes would perform well in the biennial competition scheduled May 12-23 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“I do not want to put any pressure on our athletes, who already encountered difficult moments during this pandemic. But I can say right now we have a good chance in two of three men’s events in Hanoi,” said Tanchanco-Caballero during the weekly “Sports On Air” vodcast.
Asked which events the Filipino sepak takraw team has fighting chance, Tanchanco-Caballero pointed to men’s doubles and quads.
“I say doubles and quads. Maganda yung fighting chance natin dahil nag-world champions na tayo sa men’s doubles and we’re sending the same veterans,” Tanchanco told the five-man panelist composed of veteran sports journalists.
“Out of eight events in the men’s division, we’re allowed to join in three events. Sabi nga, ayoko nang dagdagan pa ang pressure sa mga atleta. But I’m very confident in two events. Ito talaga yun magde-deliver ng medal of significant color sa team natin. But I like gold or silver. Our athletes are working really hard. Hindi naman sila pupunta sa Vietnam para magpa-bugbog lang.”
The Philippines finished second behind Thailand in the overall medal tally in sepak takraw during the 2019 SEA Games in Manila held at the Subic gymnasium from Dec. 1-10.
The Filipinos captured two gold medals in men’s and women’s hoops and three bronzes in men’s doubles and men’s and women’s regu.
The Thais pocketed three golds.
Indonesia had 1-1-1, Malaysia had 0-2-1and Myanmar and 2022 host Vietnam had 0-1-2.
Tanchanco-Caballero said the women’s team is not listed in the Hanoi-bound Filipino delegation.
“Right now, it’s the decision of the NSA. We’re a team player. We agreed with the Philippine Olympic Committee na kung sino lang talaga yun malalakas at may gold medal potential ang ipadadala sa Hanoi. Hindi practice lang yun SEA Games. That’s the marching order to all of us,” admitted Tanchanco-Caballero.
“While nag-gold medal tayo sa 2019 SEA Games in women’s, medyo manipis yun chances natin ngayon. Vietnam is No. 2 in the world right now sa ladies, and we wouldn’t really want to be wasting government money, lalo na the battle plan of Team Pilipinas right now is to garner as many gold medals as possible.We’re going there to make an attempt to defend our 2019 overall title.”
Tanchanco-Caballero also claimed the bubble training of the national team in Bulacan is going well.
“The bubble training, which started last January, helps our athletes prepare physically and mentally. The members of the national team really wanted to be isolated and away to everyone dahil yun ang na-miss nila during the pandemic. They have to be in the zone. They need space. The decision to isolate is not just us, but the coaching staff and our national team. They don’t have the luxury of time for an extended year of training in time for the SEA Games.”
Added Tanchanco-Caballero: “I’m just so happy to see them na balik na sila sa competition weight nila. Mentally, I believe they are in a better place now at the Bulacan Sports Complex. Hindi na kagaya dati na uncertain, na lalaban kami pero walang training. Ngayon alam nila na binigyan sila ng ample opportunities to be on their own and pray what they need to do. I feel we’re right on timing and I hope they’ll peak at the right time for the Hanoi SEA Games.”
The feisty female sports official is not too worried about reports of the surge in coronavirus cases in Vietnam.
“We’re all concerned about the health and safety of our athletes and officials going to Hanoi. But the POC, headed by Cong. Bambol Tolentino, has made efforts for the booster shot programs of the national athletes, especially those bound for Vietnam. I believe all NSAs have Plan B. Nasa entry by number tayo ngayon and by that time na entry by name dapat nakaabang na rin yung mga back-ups,” claimed Tanchanco-Caballero.
“But at the same time, for my NSA, I will be imposing a lockdown starting the last week of April. At least more than two weeks clearance na wala na lalabas ulit, bubble na uli. Just to ensure na walang makakapasok at walang magpo-positive in time for their departure on May 12 for Hanoi.” With reports from Gab Ferreras