HANOI— Throwing coach Arniel Ferrera sat at the sidelines in silence as his wards William Morrison III raised his arms in triumph and Albert Mantua, writhing in pain and covering his face, was carried off the My Dinh Stadium on a stretcher.
When asked what transpired at the shotput finals of the 31st Southeast Asian Games here, Ferrera, still a hulking figure at 6-foot flat despite his retirement from athletics’ throwing events, wept as fellow coach Emerson Obiena comforted him.
“I’m so happy, but mixed emotion,” said Ferrera, pausing for a minute before gathering himself again. “Dalawang medal dapat. Ganoon talaga ang laban. Historic day, kasi 19 years ago, dito ako unang nag-gold.”
Ferrera has been a throwing legend for the Philippines, a four-time hammer throw king in the SEA Games, starting in 2003 in Vietnam. With four golds in his resume, he is tied with long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang, sprinter Isidro del Prado, legendary javelin thrower Erlinda Lavandia and marathon man Eduardo “Vertek” Buenavista.
And so it was easy to understand the raw emotions Ferrera displayed, the sentiments of a coach, who wanted only the best for his wards. He wanted his throwers – both Morrison and Mantua — to feel the pride he felt when he won a SEAG medal, right at the heart of where his legend began.
But alas, it was not meant to be.
Like a diesel engine that became more powerful by the minute, Morrison threw the metal ball at distances of 17.84 and 17.97, before clinching the gold at 18.14 meters.
Mantua, who beat Morrison at the Singapore Open before the SEA Games, was no slouch either at 16.77 and 16.96, before disaster struck in his fifth throw, when he suffered a severe right ankle sprain, forcing him out of the competition. As Morrison comforted his fallen teammate as he was being carried out of the stadium, Ferrera was a look of concern, a father figure, whose best-laid plans for his “children” didn’t pan out as expected.
“Before siya (Morrison) nag-compete sa Singapore Open, 16.86 siya. Sa Singapore, somewhere 16.6 lang siya, tinalo siya ni Albert na nag-set ng personal best niya, 17.33. Noong nasa Baguio kami, nag 17.04 siya sa National Open. Then, balik kami Baguio, maganda naging progression namin. So hayun, nag 18.40 ulet siya. ‘Yung progress niya, nangyari sa Baguio. Gustung gusto niya ang Baguio. ‘Yun ang kagandahan na dalawa atleta natin, kasi hindi naman natin hiningi katulad ng nangyari, kung sakali hindi pumalo ang isa, may backup tayo. So, it’s a mixed emotion talaga,” said Ferrera.
Some 50 feet away, a petite Filipina woman in her 60s, was jumping for joy, screaming her lungs out with a motley crew of well-wishers.
The woman, Morrison’s Filipina mom Marlene, came down the gallery as her son climbed up the railings as they shared a bear hug to the cheers of the crowd.
“I am always proud. I just have to support him, no matter what. Win or lose,” said Marlene, who flew all the way from the United States to rally behind her son. “We flew from Colorado, then to Singapore, and then here in Vietnam.”
Marlene would go on to explain that she travels with her son in most of his competitions ever since he became a full athletic scholar at Indiana University.
“I and his father William (Morrison Jr.) always support him,” said Marlene of the Fil-American thrower’s father, a retired US Navy.
“His win in the SEA Games brings us so much pride.”
Those were the two faces of happiness in the 31st Southeast Asian Games – one, a mix of joy and pain, the other of pure delight — but both, were eternally grateful.