The Philippine squash team hopes to win at least two gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia this August.
The Squash Rackets Association of the Philippines (SRAP) has hired former Malaysian national player Valentino Bong to boost the team’s chances in the biennial meet slated to be held from Aug. 19 to 30 in Kuala Lumpur.
“I’ve been with the team for a month and I see a big improvement,” said the 28-year-old Bong, a member of the team that won the gold medal in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, during an interview on Tuesday in the weekly PSA Forum held at the Phoenix Hotel in Pasay.
Bong was accompanied by Filipino coach Jun Paganpan, athletes Robert Garcia, David Pelino, Reymark Begornia and Myca Aribado, and SRAP president Richard Bachmann.
Bong, currently ranked No. 177 in the Professional Squash Association, said he believes in the capability of Filipinos to excel. This is also one of the reasons he agreed to coach them, he said.
“Given more training and exposure to high-level competitions, the Filipinos can win medals,” added Bong, whose best world rankings was No. 122.
Bong is half-Filipino. His mother Gloria de Dios hails from Cavite while his father is a Customs officer in Malaysia. He was born in Sarawak’s capital city of Kuching and moved to the Philippines where he stayed for five years before going back to Malaysia. He is the eldest among four siblings and is the only athlete in the family.
Paganpan noted the benefit of Bong’s inclusion in the team. “Our players will definitely learn a lot from coach Bong, who is a very good player.”
The national team has recently competed in the Asian Squash Championships in Chennai, India.
Meanwhile, Bachmann announced the staging of the 2nd and 3rd Nissan Squash Championships on May 16-21 at the Manila Polo Club.
Some 60 players, including 16 women, are expected to join the $5,000 tournament which is part of the Philippine Squash Association World Tour.
“All our players will compete in the Nissan tournament, which is a prelude to the SEA Games,” said Bachmann, who will act as deputy chef de mission of the Philippine delegation to the SEA Games.
The SRAP official said Aribado is in the main draw of the women’s division while Garcia is entered as a wild card in the men’s division.
Bachmann said that after the Nissan event, the national squash team will go to New Zealand to compete in 3 to 4 tournaments in the PSA World Tour. PNA