KUALA LUMPUR – With gold medals falling like raindrops on a dry desert, the Philippines is headed for another heart-breaking finish with only three days left before the 29th Southeast Asian Games comes to a close at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
Save for a surprise victory in equestrian, it was heartache all over as no Filipino athlete emerged with a gold medal, putting tremendous pressure on Olympian Kirstie Elaine Alora and Francis Agojo to deliver a strong finishing kick in taekwondo and a four-man Philippine squad in the wushu finals on Tuesday.
John Colin Syquia, an unknown newcomer from Florida, was the lone bright spot on Monday as he won the individual showjumping crown to pluck the country’s 23rd gold medal and its first mint in equestrian since 2011 in Palembang.
Riding Adventure E, Syquia was tied with five other riders in the first two rounds before blazing in the jump off to clock a commanding 37.63 seconds over Malaysians Sharmini Christina Ratnasingham (41.30 seconds) and Dato’ Seri Mahamad Fathil Qabi Ambak (41.66 seconds).
Ratnasingham was on board Arcado L while Ambak rode 3Q Qaliya.
“This (gold medal) is very special because this is the first time for me to compete in the SEA Games,” said the 46-year old Quezon City-born professional equestrian and horse-dealer, who participates in shows and derbies in Wellington, Florida.
With this sorry development, the Philippines did not only terribly miss its initial projection of 50 gold medals, but is also on track to absorb its ugliest finish in terms of gold-medal production for the past 18 years.
The Philippines emerged with only 29 gold medals in the past two editions in Myanmar in 2013 and Singapore in 2015.
Prior to that, its worst finish was at the 1999 Brunei SEA Games where it managed to bring home only 20 mints.
But the Brunei Games, where only 233 gold medals were at stake, was small compared to this year’s biennial meet, where a total of 404 from 38 sports gold medals are being disputed.
Malaysia remains on top of the medal tally after shattering the century mark with 102 gold medals while Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore are way behind with 58, 54 and 48 mints.
Indonesia, the host of the Asian Games next year, is eight gold medals ahead of the Philippines with 31, making it very impossible for the Philippines to steal the fifth spot away.
The Philippines also has 30 silver and 55 bronze medals.
World champion Gaylord Coveta of sailing and Olympian Nestor Colonia of weightlifting suffered heart-breaking setbacks while the entire muay squad was wiped out in the championship battle.
Coveta, the 27-year old sailor, who was crowned as world champion in 2012, settled for silver medal in the men’s windsurfing RS One event behind Olympian Natthaphong Phonoppharat of Thailand, while Illham Wahab of Indonesia bagged the silver medal.
A hurting Colonia also suffered a flattening setback as he finished fifth out of six competitors in the men’s 56 kg. division weightlifting competition.
He lifted a meager 113 kg. in the snatch and 140 kg. in the clean and jerk, for a total of 254 kg., to land fifth out of six entries.
Thach Kim Tuan, the Youth Olympics gold medalist and world record-holder in the 56 kg., lifted 120 kg. in the snatch and 149 kg. in clean and jerk, for a total of 260 kg., to retain the crown he won in the Myanmar SEA Games in 2013.
Surahmat Bin Suwoto Wuoy of Indonesia captured the bronze medal with 119 kg. in snatch and 148 kg. in clean and jerk, for a total of 267 kg., while Witoon Mingmoon of Thailand grabbed the bronze medal with 110 kg. in snatch and 149 kg. in clean and jerk, for a total of 259 kg.
“I really can’t pull it off; I’m not in perfect shape,” said Colonia, who is nursing a knee injury.
Muay fighter Ryan Jafiri also kissed his gold medal chances goodbye as he was knocked out of contention by a Cambodian legend in the 63.5 kg. class muay competition.
After drawing a bye in the five-man field, Jafiri was caught by a ramming front kick and a thunderous punch from Khun Dima of Cambodia that sent him crashing with 1:11 left.
Jafiri was the fifth Filipino muay fighter to bid goodbye in the 11-nation conclave. He, however, would still go home with a bronze medal.
“His foe was a muay legend in Cambodia,” said head coach Billy Amumno.
Already out of contention were Jonathan Polosan, Jay Harold Gregorio, Khen Johnson Marques and Philip Delarmino.