KUALA LUMPUR – The Philippines pressed fancied Singapore more than what was expected before going down, 1-2, in the finals of men’s team event of the 29th Southeast Asian Games squash tournament late Tuesday at the National Squash Center in Bukit Jalil.
After a stunning upset of top seed and hometown favorite Malaysia in the semifinals the night before, the Filipinos just didn’t have enough gas in the tank in their battle against title-hungry Singaporeans, who feasted on the errors of Reymark Begornia and David Pelino in the best-of-3 finale.
Playing in the opening set, Begornia, the country’s top player, was stale, falling prey often to Singapore Pang Kha Hoe’s drop shots and yielded meekly in straight sets, 1-11, 3-11, 6-11, in under 30 minutes.
“Reymark was tentative and was playing only at 40 percent. That is not his game. I guess he was pressured,” said Filipino-Malaysian coach Bong Valentino.
But the Pinoy racket-wielders kept their hopes up, thanks to the heroics of veteran Robert Garcia, who fashioned a gripping 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9 win over Ben Chan in a match that lasted for nearly an hour, paving the way for a winner-take-all rubber match.
Pelino, who was rested in the game against Malaysia, proved to be no match to former Singaporean No. 1 Samuel Kang, who, using all the tricks in his vast repertoire of shots, toyed around with his Filipino foe, 11-4, 11-4, 11-5, in clinching the gold for the Singaporeans.
Despite the loss, squash chief and deputy chief of mission Robert Bachmann was satisfied over the performance of his wards, noting that “now we showed that we can play with the best squash players in the region, including powerhouses Malaysia and Singapore.”
“We hope that as our players continue to train hard we can finally win our first gold in squash in the 2019 Philippine SEA Games.”
Once considered whipping boys in the region, the Filipino squash players showed that they can hold their own against the region’s best and showed a marked improvement in the 30th edition of the SEA Games.
They will be going home with two silvers, counting the women’s doubles of Jemyca Aribado and Alyssa Dalida, and eight bronze medals, good for third overall behind overall champion Malaysia (6-4-2) and runner-up Singapore (3-2-5).
This is a vast improvement from the paltry haul of three bronzes in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.
To sustain these gains, Bachmann bared that the Philippine Squash Academy, the local sports body for the sport, plans to build its own national squash training center with the help of private businessmen “because this is the only way we can develop new blood for our sport.”