Patrombon clashes with Chinese, Barbosa squares off with Israel bet, Lacuna guns for a slot in 400-m freestyle

A talented but unassuming netter, small but big-hearted taekwondo jin and a courageous tanker take the stage as they spearhead the lean but mean nine-man Philippine delegation seeking to make a mark at the start of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore on Sunday.

Jeson Patrombon, who has risen from nowhere to one of the Top 50 players in the world, will takes the court at 11:30 a.m. (Manila time) as he clashes with Chinese Boen Ouyang, the top junior netter of the powerhouse Asian country at the start of the singles matches at the Kallang Tennis Center.

Kirk Barbosa, for his part, hopes to make up for what he lacks in height with his speed and determination as squares of with a taller Gili Haimovitz of Israel in what could be the 15-year-old’s  toughest match to date.

Jessie Lacuna, a veteran of many international competitions and a product of the Palarong Pambansa and the Philippine Olympic Committee’s Philippine Olympic Festival, guns for a slot in the 400-meter freestyle finals at the Singapore Sports School state-of-the-art, Olympic-size pool.

Of the three though, it could be Barbosa, who made it through as a wildcard, would could snare the country’s first medal—a bronze—in the 48-kilogram class if he could hurdle Haimovitz in a virtual David-and-Goliath match.

Both RP chief de mission Mark Joseph and his coach, Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz, feel nothing but optimism for Barbosa.

“He’s one of our athletes who have the best chance to medal, and perhaps win us the gold,” said Joseph, who is also the country’s aquatics chief and POC spokesman, referring to Barbosa.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match but he has a strong chance to win,” said Cruz, a many-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and an Olympian himself.

Patrombon’s coach, Manny Tecson, likewise is confident his player could medal in this 13-day event for 14-18 year old athletes.

“I believe we have a good chance in this match,” said Tecson.

Tecson said Patrombon would not only be shooting for a medal, perhaps the one that glitters the most, but also International Tennis Federation points since this event is graded by the ITF as a Grade 4 tournament, the same level of the Grand Slam events like the Wimbledon, the Australian, the French and the US Open.

“One good news is that the ITF has allocated world ranking points for this event and it is in the same level as the Grand Slams, which is a grade A, plus the ITF is also giving world ranking points even in the consolation round equivalent to an ITF Grade 4 event, said Tecson.

“That is why every match is important and can affect the standings in the rankings at the end of the year,” he added.

Patrombon, as well as the rest of the participant in the sport, will also get a little more rest after organizers agreed to move the event from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. since everyone joined the lavish and colorful opening ceremony prepared by the host Singaporeans.

“A lot of coaches including myself voiced out our concerns during the captains meeting about their players getting spent out and tired during the match because the parade will take about 7 hours and will end at 11pm,” said Tecson.

“For tennis, as an example, our matches start the following day, which will be tough for the players and coaches.

“That is why the ITF has decided to start the first matches a little late at 10:30 AM instead of 9 a.m.,” he added.

The three-on-three basketball team of Fil-Am Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., Jeron Teng, Cris Michael Tolomia and Michael Pate, for their part, launches its golden bid on Monday against the US Virgin Island, the same country where the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan was born.

The cagers will then battle it out with powerhouse Spain on Tuesday, title contender Croatia on Wednesday before closing out their elimination round schedule with a duel with South Africa on Thursday.

“We will do our best in the preliminaries to finish in the top two in our group and to advance to the quarterfinals,” said RP team mentor Mon Jose, a former La Salle standout and pro.

“Spain and Croatia are the tougher teams in our group but we’re very optimistic, hopefully we’ll surprise some teams and pull off some upsets,” he added.Jasmine Alkhaldi will also open her bid that day along with Lacuna, a product of the Palarong Pambansa and the Philippine Olympic Committee’s Philippine Olympic Festival.

Patricia Llena, the country’s flag bearer, 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 Asian Weightlifting Championship in Dubai where she snared three silver medals.(pr)

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