September 23, 2023 | 12:00am
HANGZHOU – Team Philippines’ ambitious gold medal forecast for the 19th Asian Games remained the same: minimum of four. That’s what Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino issued Friday on the eve of the highly awaited opening ceremony for the biggest Asian Games ever.
“Minimum of four golds. Okay na ‘yun,” said Tolentino.
Under his watch, the Philippines broke the ice by winning its first gold in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and brought home two more silvers and one bronze in boxing. It was the country’s largest medal haul in the Olympics in almost 100 years of participation.
Tolentino thinks it was no fluke.
And for this alone, the POC chief remained confident that the Pinoy athletes will deliver as predicted, as expected in this city of over 10 million people, a vast area decorated with the famous West Lake, and high-rise commercial buildings and condominiums as far as the eyes can see.
“Kaya natin ‘yan. Ganun pa din. Our target remains the same,” said Tolentino, dropping the names of EJ Obiena in pole vault, Eumir Marcial in boxing and Clyde Mondilla in golf, among others, as potential winners here.
Tolentino was reminded that in 2018, in Jakarta and Palembang, all four gold medals won by the Philippines were delivered by female athletes, including skateboarder Margie Didal, the golfers then led by Fil-Japanese Yuka Saso, and Diaz, now married and competing at a heavier class.
“Baka bumawi ang mga lalaki natin. We have EJ Obiena, Eumir Marcial in boxing, sa golf meron tayong magaling (Clyde Mondilla) and those in Esports,” said Tolentino as Team Philippines braced for the competition that will last until the 8th of October.
The Philippines will be represented by 395 athletes in this Asian Games, which attracted a grand total of 12,417 from 45 nations. Overall, 481 gold medals in 40 sports are on the table.
It’s the biggest gathering of athletes in history, perhaps even beyond the Asian Games,surpassing the 11,420 of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and the initial list of 10,000-plus for next year’s Paris Olympics.
The number of Philippine participants is a big jump from the 272 in 2018, when the country also brought home two silver and 15 bronze medals. Sports officials are now relying on the saying that goes, “the more entries you send, the more chances of winning.”
But if that’s the case, then the host country of 1.4 billion people is primed for yet another dominance. There are 886 Chinese athletes in this edition, bigger than any other, and includes 36 Olympic champions, past and current.