PHILIPPINE STAR FILE PHOTO

PHILIPPINE Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino is leaving it all up to prayers that the country could duplicate, if not surpass, the 149 gold medals it scooped up in the last Southeast Asian Games in Manila two years ago in the Hanoi Games slated for May 12 to 23.

“We’ll just pray that our athletes can defend the 149 gold medals we won the last time,” said Mr. Tolentino during Tuesday’s online Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.

The PSA executive of the year awardee was coming off the chef de mission meeting in Hanoi over the weekend and reported that host nation had already accepted the country’s entry by name roster that included World No. 5 pole-vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena.

“They’ve already accepted our entry by name and we’re just waiting for the final confirmation,” said congressman from Tagaytay.

The PhilCycling chief remained firm of his original forecast of a top three finish by the Filipinos in the biennial games behind the host country, which is expected to run away with the overall title.

“Malaysia has fielded in less than 800 athletes. Indonesia and Thailand remained heavyweights. A top three finish is our goal,” he said.

Mr. Tolentino reported the first Filipino athletes to plunge into action will come from men’s football, beach handball and kickboxing on May 6 followed by diving on May 8; rowing on May 9; chess, men’s futsal, women’s futsal, pencak silat and kurash on May 10; and women’s football in May 11.

And the rest of the country’s bets will follow on May 13 or a day after the May 12 inaugurals. — Joey Villar