Chef de mission Fernandez motivates Philippine athletes to shine

HANOI — Team Philippines formally opened its campaign in the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games on Thursday with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) going all out in the country’s bid for Filipino athletes to shine.

PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez again motivated the 641 athletes who will see action in 38 sports to maintain focus and give their best shot to seize those medals and make the nation proud.

“Let’s encourage our athletes, let’s pray for them. They have prepared hard for this, it’s their time to shine now,’’ said Mr. Fernandez, the chef de mission of Team Philippines.

The Philippine crusade to corner a large hoard of medals will go into overdrive starting on Friday following Thursday night’s opening ceremony where 31 Filipino athletes and officials led by flag-bearer Ernest John Obiena of pole vault attended the parade of nations at the My Dinh National Stadium here.

Mary Francine Padios captured the first gold medal for the country after topping the women’s Seni Tunggal event in pencak silat apart from the five silvers and five bronzes from kurash, handball, rowing and pencak silat that propeled Team Philippines to fourth place overall in the medal standings.

“I’m pretty much optimistic that our standings will improve as the games come along. We’re hoping and praying. They have to focus and they know what to do. These games are all about the athletes,’’ said Mr. Fernandez.

The PSC funded the full participation of the 980-strong Philippine delegation in these Games, which the nation ruled during its 2019 hosting.

“Everyday, challenges come along. I’m thankful to the PSC staff who are all veterans and experienced in the SEA Games. They know how to solve these challenges,’’ said Mr. Fernandez.

More than half of the entire Philippine contingent has arrived with athletes from archery, beach volleyball, dancesport, esports, sepak takraw, fencing, and swimming checking in on Thursday in the Vietnamese capital.

Aside from the kickboxing finals on Friday, Filipino athletes in badminton, 3×3 basketball, billiards and snookers, bodybuilding, chess, esports, fencing, golf, gymnastics, sepak takraw, table tennis, tennis, wushu, and indoor volleyball will jumpstart their medal hunt on the same day.