Track and field bets in for tough race
Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Athletics chief Philip Ella Juico has toned down his medal projections for the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August.

“It’s very difficult now to give a prediction at the rate the other countries are preparing,” Juico said.

Just a few months ago, the former chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission said Filipino athletes to this year’s SEA Games can win at least seven gold medals.

In 2015 in Singapore, Filipino track athletes had the most number of podium finishes for the country with five gold, seven silver and nine bronze medals. Thailand topped the medal race in athletics with 17-13-9 followed by Vietnam (11-15-8) and Indonesia (7-4-4).

Juico had hoped to surpass that haul. But with the latest information he received, the athletics chief thinks it’s better to play safe.

“The Thailand team, I understand, is in Florida while another team (country) is in Arizona and then another one is in Germany,” he said.

“Those events, which we thought were sure gold (medals) are now in the question mark category,” said Juico, whose top athletes are just about to leave for Australia to train.

“That’s why we really want to get started with our training in Australia to more or less catch up or maintain our advantage if there’s (one) in the first place,” he said.

“At this point I’d like to be very, very careful until after the National Open (this month) and the training in Australia,” Juico said.

Still expected to shoot for the gold in Kuala Lumpur are 2015 SEA Games winners Eric Cray (100m and 400m hurdles), Caleb Stuart (hammer throw), Kayla Richardson (100m) and Christopher Ulboc (3000m steeplechase), along with EJ Obiena (pole vault), Marestella Torres (long jump), Harry Diones (triple jump), Trentan Beram (400m), Mervin Guarte (800m), Patrick Unso (low hurdles), Mary Joy Tabal (marathon) and the men’s 4x400m team.

Juico said each one of these athletes has a shot at the gold.

“But maybe the right thing to say is I am more cautious now having been provided with input on how Thailand and Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia are doing. Those inputs were not with us when we made that prediction (last December),” he said.

“We have plenty of time. They will peak in time. They’ve been training regularly and it’s not like we’re starting from scratch. Everything is being timed properly,” Juico added.

PHILIP ELLA JUICO
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