ASIAN GAMES: Gold medal winner Saso eyes Youth Olympics next
ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 27, 2018 07:16 PM
“I just never lost faith in myself and I never doubted this team form the beginning." - Yuka Saso (Photo courtesy of 2018 Asian Games Philippine Media Pool).
JAKARTA — Yuka Saso, owner of an individual gold in golf at the 18th Asian Games that also towed the women’s team to the crown, intends to bring her winning act to the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires is hosting in October.
The Filipino-Japanese was still in could nine over the double-gold victory on Sunday but she couldn’t wait to buckle down to serious training for the YOG.
The Asian Games gold medals were overwhelming for Saso and teammates Bianca Pagdanganan and Louis Kay Go that they could not seem to get over their success that easily.
“These [gold medals] are really, really big. The Asian Games are like the Olympics,” Saso, 17, said. “I’m proud of myself, my team and everyone who supported us.”
Their coach, Rick Gibson, a journeyman on the Asian Tour who has won the fabled Philippine Open, was as ecstatic as the young girls.
“Unbelievable,” Gibson said. “Wow, these girls!”
“It’s my honor to be part of the team, to be part of NGAP [National Golf Associaton of the Philippines] and put the pieces [of these championship team together.”
Saso’s path to the gold medal—and so as the team’s—were laced with sheer talent and destiny.
An eagle-3 in the 18th and final hole coupled with the collapse of erstwhile leader Liu Wenbo, who had a quadruple bogey in the same hole, spelled a double victory for the Philippines four days after weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first gold.
The 17-year-old Saso was in her best form when it mattered most at the Pondok Indah Golf and Country Club course, rallying from four shots down to end a gold medal drought that started after Ramon Brobio won the men’s individual title in the 1986 Seoul Games.
Pagdanganan also clinched bronze in individual play as the Philippines dominated the podium for the first time in the Games.
“I just never lost faith in myself and I never doubted this team form the beginning,” Saso said. “We are all fighters and we really fought hard for our country.”
Although still in their teens, Gibson said Saso and her teammates already possess the experience to excel under pressure and win major tournaments.
“Yuka is a US NCAA champion. She has the makings of a world champion,” Gibson said.
Gibson confided that it was only Pagdanganan and Go who walked the course ahead of the Games.
“Yuka? She didn’t join the two girls. But she knows the course, she played there three years ago,” he said.
The YOG are set October 6 to 18 and Gibson said Saso is eager to get back to the course and prepare herself for another gold.
Saso’s No. 48 world ranking qualified her for the YOG. She will be joined by Luis Miguel Castro, who also played here in the Games along with Lloyd Jeferson Go and Ruperto Zaragoza but finished eighth behind Japan, China and South Korea.
“The girls have shown that Filipinos could win in the Asian Games,” Gibson said. “It was a great day for Filipinos.”