Patafa president Philip Juico

Medalists at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games banner the small but lean field in the Ayala National Athletics Championships slated Dec. 16 to 17 at the Baguio Athletic Bowl.

Among those are SEAG marathon champion Christine Hallasgo, javelin winner Melvin Calano, decathlon gold and bronze medalists Aries Toledo and Janry Ubas, triple jump silver medalist Mark Henry Diones, 110-meter hurdles champion Clinton Bautista, and the 4x100m relay bronze winners Eloisa Luzon, Jessel Lumapas and Maureen Schrijvers.

This would be Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (Patafa) first face-to-face event in two years since the pandemic, serving as a performance tournament for national athletes as they gear up for the 31st SEAG in Vietnam in May 2022 and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in September.

A total of 18 men’s and 18 women’s events will be competed in the two-day affair that will be participated by around 200 athletes who met the required performance standards.

Patafa chief Philip Juico said the tournament serves as a performance trial for national team members seeking berths to the SEAG and the Asian Games.

Juico hopes the tournament would bolster the athletes’ training following a long hiatus brought by the pandemic.

National team coach Jeoff Chua also sees the excitement of the athletes to be back in a competitive atmosphere.

“Yung mga atleta natin parang mga bata, mga freshman. Kasi iba rin yung competition sa training,” Chua said in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association online forum.

Juico said they have zero expectations for the athletes at the moment except to keep themselves fit and reiterated they are not thinking much about matching or eclipsing the team’s 11-gold medal haul at the previous SEAG held in Manila.

“Mahirap sabihin yung expectations natin because we’re not living in a normal situation. Even our own coaches don’t have expectations for now for our athletes,” Juico said.

“We’re living day-to-day. We just have to make adjustments, go with the flow and use Filipino ingenuity and improvisation.”

While some national team members have been in bubble training in Baguio for the last two months, Juico said they are looking forward to training at the Philsports Complex in Pasig City by Jan. 15, 2022.

Source: Manila Bulletin (