PH nails first Asiad archery medal as Dela Cruz bags bronze

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The Philippine archery team’s trek to Asian Games history got stalled Saturday morning when an insect got in the way of a dogfight for the bronze medal in men’s team compound.

But Paul Marton dela Cruz made sure he would hit history dead center in the afternoon.

Dela Cruz gave the country its second bronze medal at the 17th Asiad—archery’s first ever in the quadrennial meet—as he bounced back from a semifinal defeat earlier in the day to nip Malaysia’s Muhammad Zaki Bin Mahazan, 140-139, at Gyeyang Asiad Archery Field here.

“This is for the country. I gave it all because it was the country’s last chance to secure a medal in archery,” said Dela Cruz in Filipino.

On a day a late Kazakhstan victory defibrillated a flat-lining Gilas Pilipinas bid with a crucial victory over Qatar, the Philippines pumped life back into a gasping medal machine, hiking its modest haul to two silvers and two bronzes.

Boxing continued to put athletes in medal position at Seonhak Gymnasium even as the country’s lady golfers struggled to keep their medal bid in team competition a reality at Dream Park Country Club and the Blu Girls opened their softball campaign with a split of their first two assignments.

Josie Cabuco repulsed Lin Yu Ting in their flyweight clash, scoring a 2-0 victory. The third judge called their bout even. Nesthy Petecio was even more dominant against Kazakhstan’s Gulzhaina Ubbiniysova, cruising to a unanimous victory in their lightweight duel.

Both female fighters advanced to the quarterfinals and need just one more win to assure themselves of at least a bronze medal.

Boxing suffered a second casualty, though, as flyweight Ian Clark Bautista was eliminated by Choe Sang-don of host South Korea by unanimous decision.

The curtains also virtually fell on an individual medal in women’s golf but Miya Legaspi and Princess Superal managed to buck their struggles on the green to keep at least the bronze in sight.

Legaspi submitted a 71 while Superal needed a last-ditch birdie to come out of the third round with an even-par score as the two helped the Philippines to a three-day aggregate of 427, 21 shots behind scorching leader Thailand but just two strokes off Japan, which was running third.

Pauline del Rosario’s 75 did not count.

Coach Bong Lopez blamed poor putting for the Philippines’ slide. The team was very much in contention for both the individual and team competitions.

Legaspi, 16, had two three-putts and missed birdie putts inside eight feet from No. 13 to No. 16.

“Naiiyak na nga po ako eh (I was close to tears),” she said.

Gilas Pilipinas blew a 16-point lead and lost to nemesis Korea, 97-95, at Samsan World Gymnasium but its semifinal hopes perked up when Kazakhstan upset Qatar, 65-57, later in the night.

That set the men’s basketball team up for a crucial game against the Kazakhs Sunday, which it will have to win by more than 10 points to have a shot at advancing to the final 4. A loss by Korea, though, to Qatar on the same day will send the Filipinos packing.

Dela Cruz was certainly the biggest news of the day as his bronze was the first ever won by the Philippines in archery in the Asian Games.

The day actually started on a sour note for Dela Cruz, who dedicated the win to his wife, former recurve Olympian Rachel Cabral, and four-month old son Easton.

The men’s compound team trailed in its showdown with Iran for the bronze before going on a perfect run in the third end, hitting six 10s to take a 171-170 edge into the last set of arrows.

Both the Philippines and Iran hit 10s in their opening shots. Dela Cruz, who had been solid the whole time, took his turn to put pressure on the Iranians, but just as he had aimed and prepared to release his shot, an insect jabbed him in the right eye. He settled for a 10.

Under time pressure, Dela Cruz stepped up for his second shot and managed only a nine, which Iran pounced on to score a 227-224 victory.

As the men’s team—composed of Earl Benjamin Yap, Ian Chipeco and Dela Cruz—huddled in the team tent, they finally got to clear Dela Cruz’s eye, which still had part of an insect leg stuck inside it.

It was a sorry loss for Team Philippines, which put up a solid challenge against Iran, whose main shooter, Esmaeil Ebadi went on to win the gold in the individual event.

It was Ebadi who earlier defeated Dela Cruz in the semifinals.

“It was not our day and we just have to accept it,” said Yap. “We fought really well. Maybe we were not experienced enough to handle situations like this. There was the pressure and conditions were tricky but we gave it our best.”

At Songdo LNG Baseball Stadium, the Blu Girls scored a 3-1 victory over Korea but dropped a 10-2 decision to world powerhouse Japan.

They take on China Sunday.

Archand Bagsit and Edgardo Alejan have qualified for the second semifinals of the men’s 400m in athletics. Their next races were set later last night.

The men’s doubles tennis pair of Ruben Gonzales and Treat Huey surrendered a 6-0, 6-3 game to Korea’s Kim Yongku and Hyeon Chung and with it their bronze medal aspiration.

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