DAGUPAN CITY-- Three Dagupeño karatekas made it to the Philippine team and will compete in the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), which will formally open on Nov. 30.
The three karate athletes are part of Filipinas Wado Ryu Karatedo Renmei that is based here. They are Jason Ramil Macaalay, who won silver in the men’s kumite 60-kg event in the 29th Southeast Asian Games held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Mark Andrew Manantan; and John Enrico Vasquez.
"They were all champions, they competed in the Philippine National Games (PNG). Let us pray for them, their coaches and the whole Karate Pilipinas Team. Please watch them compete, your presence and your cheers will greatly inspire our athletes," Karate Pilipinas vice president Alejandro Enrico Vasquez, also their mentor and chief instructor, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Just like the other Philippine team members, the three passed through intense qualifying competitions before becoming members, Vasquez said.
"While it is true that he (Macaalay) was silver medalist in the last SEA Games, his inclusion in this year's Philippine team is not automatic. Praise God, he was able to maintain his good performance," he said.
Joco Vasquez captured two gold medals at the PNG under the 16 to 17 category. He competed in the Regional Division Championship until he reached the All-Division Championship.
Manantan was silver medalist in the PNG seniors Kata, automatically qualifying in the All Division Championship.
Together with Vasquez and Adam Bondoc, they captured the National Championship, automatically qualifying for the Team Kata.
With three of his protégées in the Philippine team, Vasquez said he feels proud, excited, and nervous.
"I'm nervous because one of the players is my son. It is different when your child is competing," he added.
Vasquez said the three are consistently attending training and following programs.
"They progressed well as they were exposed joining competitions to becoming children's competition champions, to cadets, juniors. It is not only them who sacrificed a lot but also their parents who spend time and their own resources for the uniform and other expenses of their kids. It is hard to be an athlete, and I’m thankful that I have well-disciplined students like them," he added.
Aside from strict training, the athletes also have to excel in their academic requirements.
"Academics wise, they have to adjust. If they can't cope with both the rigorous training and their academics, they have to stop training in karate because I don’t want them blaming the sport for their poor performance in the school," he said.
The Philippine Karate team's first competition will be held on Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. at the World Trade Center.
Vasquez said they are currently housed at the Joy-Nostalg Hotel and Suites, sponsored by a private person until Nov. 30.
They will be transferred by the Philippine Sports Commission to Solaire Manila Hotel, their official billeting hotel. (PNA)