THE campaign started with a whimper but ended with a bang.
This was the colorful story of the 176-member delegation of athletes and team officials that the privately-funded Federation of School Sports Association of the Philippines sent to the 29th Summer Universiade in New Taipei City from Aug. 19 to 30.
There were 141 countries and nearly 8,000 university athletes that took part in the Taipei Universiade.
In the end, Japan stood tallest, topping the medal standings (based on gold production) with 37 golds, 27 silvers and 36 bronzes, followed by the Republic of Korea (30-22-30), host Chinese-Taipei (26-34-30), Russia (25-30-38), and the United States (16-19-16).
Supported by San Miguel Corporation, Bestank and Garfield Sportswear, the Philippines, took part in 13 of the 22 sports in the calendar with a record-setting 130 Filipino athletes seeing action in archery, athletics, badminton, billiards, diving, judo, golf, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, lawn tennis, weightlifting and wushu.
In archery, Xena Hendra Chomapoy, a 19-year-old product of the University of Cebu, downed Poland’s Magdalena Smialkoska, 6-2, in a round-of-48 match in the women’s recurve individual but lost to Slovakia’s Alexandra Longova, 6-4, in the round-of-24 to drop out of contention. Two other Filipina archers—Loren Chloe Balaoing and Shanaya Rose Dangla—drew opening-round byes but both lost to opponents from Italy and Moldova, respectively, in the round-of-24 in the same individual recurve event.
In women’s singles in lawn tennis, the country’s No. 1-ranked Marian Jade Capadocia whitewashed Nepal’s Kripa Sharma in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0, in a second-round encounter after drawing a first-round bye. The 21-year-old Arellano University tennister faced No. 2 seed Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico in the third round, but retired with 0-5 score in the first set due to dehydration from the sweltering heat in the Taipei Tennis Center that reached as high as 100oF.
Filipino bets in swimming, taekwondo, athletics and weightlifting struggled throughout, but table tennis offered some relief.
Lemuel Agbon from the University of Cebu registered a 3-1 decision over Frederik Spreckelsen in their encounter, but the Philippines bowed to Germany, 3-1, in the first round of the team-of-five men’s competition.
However, in the men’s singles table tennis events, the 22-year-old University of Cebu star Agbon hurdled his first three matches against opponents from Nepal, Colombia and Lebanon before losing to South Korea’s Wi Hun Kang in the round-of-32. His UC mate John Vincent Cabaluna emerged triumphant in his first two matches versus Bostwana’s Kevin Maloka and Lebanon’s Joe Abdel Nour but was beaten by Japan’s Masaki Yoshida in their own round-of-32 contest.
In billiards, Rodlin John Bautista edged Mongolia’s M. Soronzonbold, 11-10, in their round-of-16 men’s 9-ball singles match, but the 22-year-old Trinity University of Asia campaigner lost his quarterfinal encounter against Norway’s Eirik Riisnaes, 11-7.
Badminton was a source of joy for the Philippines as 21-year-old College of Saint Benilde standout Adrian Daniele Rigonan swept his singles match against Zambia’s Taizya Luzambo, 21-11, 21-13, in the round-of-128, and Ruben Haramel Jr. and Christine Garin, a product of Adamson University, shocked the United States duo of Alexander La and Victoria Chen, 21-16, 21-18, in their round-of-64 mixed doubles encounter.
Rigonan was defeated by Hong Kong’s Ming Nok Yeung, 21-7, 21-15, in the round-of-64, though. Hamel and Garin also got the boot in losing to the Australian tandem of Eric Viong and Claudia Lam in the round-of-32.
Only one wushu bet was left for the Philippines to reach the medal podium in the final two days of the 12-day competitions. He did not fail the country.
His name? Jomar Balangui, the University of Baguio dynamo who beat an American in the semifinals of the men’s sanda-52 kilogram event to assure him of at least a silver medal with a chance to secure a gold on the final day of the Taipei Universiade. Graham Lim