AIMAG Medal Hunt on for Philippines

Photo caption: Filipino athletes aim to surpass previous output of one gold and two bronze medals in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that formally opened on Sunday.

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – The Philippines will officially kick off its medal hunt in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games today with Filipino fighters in ju-jitsu, wrestling and taekwondo expected to deliver.

The national track and field team headed by reigning Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Eric Cray and former Asian long-jump queen Marestella Torres will also see action as the country aims to secure medals in 17 out of the 41 events that Filipino athletes have been entered on Monday.

Grappler Alvin Lobreguito pocketed the first medal for the Philippines in the men’s freestyle -57kg traditional wrestling a day before last night’s lavish opening ceremony at the ultramodern Ashgabat Olympic Stadium here.

Host Turkmenistan welcomed more 6,000 athletes from 62 countries in a grandiose opening ceremony amid a splashy display of sounds, lights, fireworks, amusing visuals and cultural presentations by host Turkmenistan on Sunday night.

For the 116 Filipino athletes lined up in 17 of the 21 sports, it will be all business until the closing rites on Sept. 27 of the biggest continental indoor games in history with the inclusion of the Oceania region headed by Olympic powerhouse Australia and New Zealand.

Cray, the SEAG 400m hurdles record-holder, will try his luck in the 60m hurdles on Monday and 60m sprint on Tuesday.

Also competing here is former Asian long jump queen Marestella Torres-Sunang.

A gold medal winner during the 2009 Asian Athletics Championships in Guangdong, China, the 36-year-old Torres-Sunang hopes to get a podium finish, something she’d like to do as she nears retirement.

She captured a bronze medal in the last KL SEA Games.

Also seeing action at the Indoor Trand and Field Stadium are Mervin Guarte and Marco Vilog, participants in the 800m preliminary round, with Guarte also set to compete in the 1500m preliminaries.

The finals of the 800m and 1500m are scheduled Wednesday. Janry Ubas, meanwhile, will aim for a podium finish in the long jump event set Tuesday.

Taekwondo jins Jenar Torillos (54kg), Samuel Thomas Morrison (74kg), Karen Celis (46kg) and Levita Ronna Ilao (46kg) are set to see action, all targeting to get a medal in this event organized by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

In jiu-jitsu, the Philippines will have Asian champion Apryl Eppinger (62kg), Alexander Lim (69kg), Terrence Hansel Co (77kg), Gilbert Ombao (94kg) and Lou-Ann Jindani (70kg).

The grapplers that will vie for medals in the traditional wrestling classic include Michael Vijay Cater (57kg), Jonathan Maquilan (62kg), Jhonny Morte (68kg), Jeff Manatad (75kg), Cristof Hoffman Jr. (90kg), Grace Loberanes (52kg) and Noemi Tener (58kg).