Swimming’s Lacuna, tennis’ Patrombon and taekwondo’s Barbosa start RP’s medal quest in YOG on Sunday

The nine-member Philippine delegation opens it’s ambitious quest for a first Olympic gold with a taekwondo jin, a netter and a tanker taking their respective stands in different venues as the competitions of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games unfurls on Sunday.

A lavish opening rite followed by the parade of nations and the lighting of the first Youth Olympic torch at the Marina Bay in Singapore ushers in the gathering of 5,000 of the best young athletes in the world coming from 205 National Olympic Committees.

Taekwondo’s Kirk Barbosa, tennis’ Jeson Patrombon and tanker Jessie Lacuna will be the first three to start their chase for the ultimate prize in their respective sports as they take the spotlight on Sunday.

The stakes will be sky high and so is the pressure for Barbosa, Patrombon and Lacuna, who are all going for nothing less than a win that should bolster not only their chances to medal but also inspire the rest of the nine-man RP delegation.

The 16-year-old Lacuna will be the first Filipino to engage in battle as he plunges into action in the 200-meter freestyle event starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Singapore Sports School while Patrombon gets to show his wares when tennis unfolds half an hour later at the Kellang Tennis Center.

Barbosa, a wild card entry and youngest Filipino athlete at 15 years old, for his part, opens his campaign in the flyweight division at 2:30 p.m. at the International Convention Center with a match against Israel.

Only the top eight fighters in the world compete in this category, so if he wins, it will be an automatic medal that will qualify him to try for silver or gold. “He has a good chance, but it won’t be an easy fight,” said taekwondo coach Kitoy Cruz.

“Kirk seems psyched up, not pressured at all. He is easy to underestimate, but he’s a good fighter,” says POC Deputy Secretary General Mark Joseph, who is Chief de Mission.

The Filipinos will come out proud and inspired with world champion weightlifter Patricia Llena bearing the national flag.

Joseph yesterday said he is proud of the delegation and feels nothing but optimism in the country’s chances in the 13-day event.

“It’s the calm before the storm before the 5,000 athletes and officials and almost half a million spectators will be part of this historic event, the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Joseph, who is also the country’s aquatics chief.

Joseph and some Philippine Olympic Committee officials, perhaps president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., are expected to be at the venue to give the Filipinos the much-needed support and prodding as they attempt to accomplish what their senior Olympian counterparts have failed to do —  snare the country’s first ever Olympic gold.

Aside from Llena, Barbosa, Patrombon and Lacuna, wearing the RP colors in Singapore are cagers Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., Jeron Teng, Cris Michael Tolomia and Michael Pate and another swimmer in Jasmine Al-khaldi.

Parks and Teng, sons of former star basketball players Bobby Parks, Sr. and Alvin Teng, will see action at the *scape on Monday, the same day Al-Khaldi, a product of the Palarong Pambansa and the POC’s Philippine Olympic Festival, will start competing.

Llena, for her part, will have her turn in the 63-kilogram class of weightlifting on Tuesday at the Suntec Convention Center.

Llena is also touted as one of the country’s best chances to medal following her performance in the Asian Weightlifting Championship in Dubai where she snared three silver medals.

But the road to glory may be rough and thorny.

The country is pinning its hopes mostly on Barbosa, who could be one win away from medaling, and Patrombon, who has a strong chances of snatching a medal in both the singles and doubles events.

Patrombon, currently ranked in the top 50 in the world, in fact, has just beefed up his chances after he teamed up with Indian sensation Yuki Bambri, former world junior world No. 1 who has recently turned pro, in a pairing that just might give the country its first ever Olympic medal, at least for the younger age bracket.

“Good news, Patrombon was paired in the tennis doubles with India’s Yuki Bambri, who is now a pro but the best player in the world at this point,” disclosed an ecstatic Joseph. “It’s a great Asian team versus the world and this means a new medal chance for us.”(pr)

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