HANGZHOU, China – After Gilas Pilipinas dismantled Jordan in the men’s basketball final of the 19th Asian Games, Team Philippines completed the coveted mission to duplicate the gold medals in its treasury during the previous Asiad.
But for Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, Gilas’ victory on Friday night means so much more.
“It’s worth a thousand gold,” beamed Tolentino the morning after the Philippines matched their output of four gold medals in Indonesia in 2018.
Gilas, a collection of PBA stars led by coach Tim Cone, not only won the country’s fourth gold, this team also ended an exhausting 61-year wait for the Asian Games diadem to return to local shores.
The Philippines, led by the legendary Caloy ‘The Big Difference’ Loyzaga, claimed four consecutive basketball titles at the Asian Games from 1951 in New Delhi, India to 1962 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Frustrations mounted for the Nationals since then, with silver in 1990 in Beijing and two bronze medals in 1986, Seoul and 1998, Bangkok, their only podium finishes.
‘It is God’s will, prayers are answered. That is a total of five gold medals won, including Eumir’s (Marcial) silver,” Tolentino said.
Cone assembled a fighting squad here on the ground en route to China’s artificial intelligence and e-commerce hub, built around naturalized player Justin Brownlee and World Cup holdovers Scottie Thompson, Junemar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and CJ Perez.
Chris Newsome and Calvin Oftana, who were both removed from the World Cup squad led by Chot Reyes, were added this time to San Miguel players Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter, as well as Kevin Alas, Arvin Tolentino and Ange Kouame.
Marcial took on China’s Tanglatihan Touhetaerbieke in the men’s 80kg final and finished with a silver medal, but that was good enough considering the Olympic bronze medalist earned another gold chance at the Olympics next year in Tokyo Playing in Paris.
Jujitsu warriors Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez accounted for the other two gold medals, in addition to the remaining silver from sanda fighter Arnel Mandal.
A total of 12 bronze medals were also collected from a variety of sports, placing the Philippines 17th out of 45 countries behind runaway overall champion China’s 192 gold, 106 silver and 66 bronze medals.
“After 61 years, we have once again proven that the Philippines is No. 1 in Asia (in basketball),” Tolentino said.
World Games karate champion Junna Tsukii takes to the mat on Sunday for the country’s final show before the Games end in the afternoon with another lavish closing ceremony.