Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Champ


THREE Filipino athletes have risen to stardom and catapulted the Philippines to becoming a regional sports powerhouse, as the country bagged its first-ever overall championship, in 46 years, during the 23rd Southeast Asian Games, in Manila, on November 23 to December 5.

Swimmer Miguel Molina, a student at the University of California Berkely, won three individual gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the relay, leading all other Filipino athletes in the country’s final gold-silver-bronze medal haul of 113-76-91, in its third staging of this biennial sportsfest that drew 11 nations.

Shiela Mae Perez, on the other hand, dove for two individual victories and one in the synchronized event while Benjie Tolentino, who saw action at the Athens 2004 Olympics, rowed for a gold medal in the singles and two in the pairs (with Alvin Amposta) categories.

Except for some irresponsible charges of cheating from Thailand, the Philippines’ hosting of this year’s SEA Games went smoothly, with nary a breach on security.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed that there had been cheating in the games, a charge seconded by Bangkok’s chief spokesperson Surapong Suebwonglee.

This diplomatic faux pas (as Thaksin hurled accusations without basis in fact or in law) prompted officials of the Thai delegation to Manila to apologize to host Philippines. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop also readily came over as part of damage control.

Well, it turned out it was Thailand that cheated, with some Thai officials (according to witnesses) giving wads of dollars to some boxing committee personnel to rig a match or two, at the University of St. La Salle Coliseum in Bacolod City, central Philippines, in favor of the Thai pugs.

Two Thai aquatics officials had also been sacked by Fina (international aquatics federation) for “shady judging,” among other things.


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