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Hanoi done, Cambodia SEAG next–Tolentino 

THE Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is looking at the next stop: Cambodia—now that all things written and said about the country’s “very successful” participation in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi are starting to wane.

It’s almost exactly a year from now when the nation of just over 17 million people hosts the 32nd edition of the SEA Games for the first time, and with no realistic shot at the overall title, POC President Rap. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino sees a wide-open race.

“It’s anybody’s ballgame,” Tolentino told Tuesday’s online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.

“With due respect to Cambodia, of course,” added Tolentino, who vowed to send a full contingent to the next SEA Games, which comes 12 months after the Hanoi edition that was rescheduled from 2021 due to the pandemic.

The Philippines is coming off a fourth-place finish in Hanoi with its 52 gold, 70 silver and 104 bronze medals, which is actually its biggest medal haul in the last 11 editions when it was not the host.

“We are proud of our athletes. Thank you, athletes. It was very successful,” said Tolentino barely eight days after the Hanoi Games, where Filipino gymnastics world champion Caloy Yulo won five gold medals, came to a close.

Again, Team Philippines will shoot for a podium finish or something better than that in Hanoi where the Philippines won 70 silvers, 40 of them in subjective sports and 27 of them against Vietnamese athletes.

“We have to accept reality that they [Vietnamese] were the host,” added Tolentino in the forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Milo, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, Amelie Hotel Manila, Unilever and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

Tolentino said that Cambodia will present the final list of events next month and from there, the national sports associations (NSAs) in coordination with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will plan ahead.

Proper training, overseas or on home soil, and under foreign coaches should be on top of the agenda as Team Philippines prepares to challenge Vietnam, Thailand and the host country.

The incoming administration, and perhaps a new set of officers in the government sports agency, should also play a key role preparing the athletes for the next SEA Games, a tune-up for the Asian Games, which will be held next year after its postponement this year.

“Our athletes can now train longer,” added Tolentino, who lauded the Filipino athletes for performing well in Hanoi despite limited time to train and in the absence of foreign exposure.

“We’ll join all events in Cambodia. We’re just waiting for the final list of events,” he said.

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