After landing sixth place overall in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines looks to dominate the biennial meet once more as it plays hosts anew for its 30th staging.
To ensure that the country maintains its supremacy of the Games it last achieved when the multi-sport event was held in Manila in 2005, a bumper crop of world champions, Asian Gamesmedalists, SEA Games winners, and top local standouts will banner the Philippine contingent.
Here are ten Pinoy athletes to watch in the 2019 SEA Games who are set to lead the charge in increasing the country’s Gold haul in different locations around Metro Manila and across the country from November 30 to December 11.
Caloy Yulo, gymnastics
He astounded the world by winning the gold in the floor exercise routine in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, bringing glory to the Philippines in a sport Filipinos aren’t really known to dominate globally. It was a historic feat as he became the first Southeast Asian to win a medal in the world championships, and after securing a slot in the all-around event, he became the second Filipino to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Who else can be a favorite to win several golds in the SEA Games gymnastics event than a current Filipino world champion?
Margielyn Didal, skateboarding
Another sport the Philippines is beginning to achieve great heights is in skateboarding. And that’s all because of this Cebuana who ruled the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games in 2018by bagging the country’s first gold medal in the sport. She would also represent the country in prestigious street league skateboarding meets around the world, including the 2019 SLS World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was invitedto the 2018 X Games in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Recently, she won back-to-back titles in California to strengthen her bid for a 2019 SEA Games gold in the street and game of skate events in skateboarding.
EJ Obiena, athletics – pole vault
Yet another surprise gold medal prospect is in the athletics field event of pole vaulting, with our very first Olympic qualifier EJ Obiena. After clearing 5.81 meters at the 30th Summer Universiade in Chiari, Italy this year, Obiena did not only set a new national record, he also became the first Filipino to advance to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Before his Olympic stint, Obiena targets nothing but the gold in the 2019 SEA Games after skipping the 29th staging in Kuala Lumpur in 2017 due to an ACL injury.
Hidilyn Diaz, weightlifting
Hidilyn Diaz is a name we all mention with genuine Pinoy pride, achieving the most astonishing athletic feats for a Filipina in the world stage. This incredible Pinay weightlifter brought many to tears after notching the silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics 53kg division, ending a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines as the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal. With this feat, the Philippine Sportswriters Association named her Athlete of the Year in 2017. Diaz would later compete in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games and also compete in the 53kg division, garnering a total lift of 207 kg, bagging the Gold. With her achievements, it is quite surprising that she hasn’t won a SEA Games medal. As such, her chances to take home the Gold in the 30th staging of the biennial meet are quite high.
Tommy Romualdez, downhill skateboarding
Downhill skateboarding is yet another event in the 30th SEA Games that is expected to bring another gold to the Philippines, courtesy of top contender Tommy Romualdez. He was the highest Asian finisher in the 2019 World Roller Games downhill tourney. He also earned a berth to the recently included sport in the SEA Games after grueling national qualifiers. Romualdezleads a team of impressive downhill skaters coached by world champion Harry Clarke.
Agatha Wong, wushu
Filipinos have long been victorious in wushu, and with the latest star Agatha Wong going all-out to retain top honors in the taijiquan event, it seems quite probable the gold once more is in the Philippines’ hands. Wong took the taijiquan gold in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in addition to a silver in taijijan. She also stepped into competitions in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games in 2018, and won the bronze in the women’s taijiquan and taijijian all-around final. To prepare for the 30th SEA Games, Wong underwent stringent training in China to help ensure her Gold medal finish once more.
Kim Mangrobang, women’s triathlon
Considered as the Philippines’ top female triathlete, Kim Mangrobang struck gold in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in a challenging sport that tests agility, strength, and grit. Over the past four years, Mangrobang has been training in Europe, specifically competing in such competitions as the Brasilia Triathlon Cup wherein she took the bronze to defend her gold finish in the SEA Games. With her immense chances at another title, Mangrobang is seen to wear the Philippines’ first gold medal in the biennial meet, as it will be first competition to decide a winner in the Games. The Philippines copped the top two finishes in the men’s and women’s competitions in the 2017 staging,
Pauline Lopez, taekwondo
For Pauline Lopez, it’s nothing but the gold as she reverts back to the 57-kg class in women’s taekwondo competitions in the 30th SEA Games. Lopez won the gold in the 57 kg division in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore but went up to 62kg in the next staging in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She settled for the bronze in that category. For Lopez, will “definitely” go all-out to retake the gold she lost, especially now that she will compete in her home country. She also won 57kg class in the 2016 Asian Taekwondo Championships in Manila. In preparation for the SEA Games, she had been competing in several international tournaments and training in Korea.
Kiefer Ravena, men’s basketball
Philippine basketball’s “phenom” Kiefer Ravena, who plays for the PBA ballclub NLEX Road Warriors, holds the distinction of being the only player to win four straight SEA Games golds as a member of the national men’s basketball team. He was part of the 2011 Jakarta-Palembang SEA Games Philippine “Sinag” team to win the gold. Two year later, Ravena was also part of the Sinag team that competed in the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar and again won the gold. In the Singapore SEA Games in 2015, Ravena became captain of the Gilas Cadets that represented the country and once more, took home the gold. And in the last staging of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Ravena and the rest of the Gilas Cadets dominated the men’s basketball tournament and won the gold anew. This year, Ravena is part of an all-pro squad coached by the country’s winningest tactician Tim Cone seen to again continue the country’s reign as the regional powerhouse in the sport with a gold medal finish.
Meggie Ochoa, jiujitsu
A world champion is a world champion, and surely the 30th SEA Games gold is just within reach for the Filipina jiujitsutitleholder Meggie Ochoa, who won the gold in the 2018 JiujitsuWorld Championships in Malmo, Sweden. She won the tournament by conquering the 49-kg class. Also in 2018, Ochoawon the gold in the Jiujitsu World Tour in London. In the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games that same year, Ochoa settled for the bronze. But in her SEA Games debut this year, Ochoa is certainly looking forward to a triumphant walk to the podium for another gold medal finish.
Catch these Pinoy athletes in their quest for glory in the Philippines 2019 30th SEA Games in different locations in Metro Manila and around the country aired live on ABS-CBN S+A, ABS-CBN S+A HD, Liga, Liga HD, iWant Sports, and sports.abs-cbn.com.