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Patafa plots Cambodia stint

We have to start planning now.

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EJ Obiena is among the top performers for Patafa in the 31st SEA Games. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PSC

Barely few hours since arriving from Hanoi, the national athletics team sat down to assess its performance and plot its course of action for the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

No less than Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico presided the meeting on Friday afternoon at the Philsports auditorium where he tackled how they can prepare for the next edition of the biennial meet set in Phnom Penh from 5 to 16 May next year.

He said since the 19th Asian Games had been called off, they have to find a way on how they can keep themselves in fighting form from now until Cambodia’s first ever hosting of the Games next year.

“We have to start planning now,” said Juico, the first national sports association leader to prepare for the next edition of the SEA Games.

“The cancellation of the Asian Games is a big blow because it was part of our original calendar. Now, we have to find a way on how we can keep ourselves in shape from now until the next SEA Games in May next year.”

The national tracksters failed to match their impressive performance in the previous SEA Games in Manila in 2019, but Juico remains still satisfied with how they performed, especially since most of them broke national records and a SEA Games record.

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena, for one, shattered the SEA Games record with 5.46 meters while thrower William Morrison, hurdler Clinton Bautista and Eric Cray and sprinter Kayla Richardson asserted their dominance in their respective events.

All in all, the tracksters emerged with five gold, eight silver and 12 bronze medals, enough to land at third place behind Vietnam with 20 gold medals and Thailand with 12 gold medals.

Still, Juico said it was a mission accomplished.

“It was a fighting loss,” said Juico, whose wards cornered 11 gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals in the previous SEA Games in 2019.

“Despite the effects of the pandemic during our buildup, our athletes still fought their hearts out that led them to break some national records. I am still proud of the team. Our athletes did everything to win.”

Juico said the absence of Kristina Knott and the Guermali brothers — Said and Yacine — hurt their chances at matching their previous achievement.

Knott and Said are still nursing foot injuries while Yacine begged off to attend to his academic commitments at Gonzaga University in the United States.

“We easily lost at least four gold medals,” said Juico, adding that Knott stands to rule the women’s 200-meter run and 4×100-meter relay while the Guermali brothers can dominate the men’s 800-meter, 1500-meter and 5000-meter runs.

“But it’s okay. I know that our athletes fought hard and represented the country well. They never gave up.”

Juico said their goal now is to turn their bronze into gold next year.

“If you can see, we have a lot of bronze medals — 12,” he said.

“That’s why I am eager to meet the team as soon as they arrive from Hanoi. I want to motivate them so they can turn these bronze medals into gold when we compete in Cambodia next year.”

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