ASHGABAT, Turk-menistan–The Philippines officially began its medal hunt in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) last Monday with Filipino fighters in ju-jitsu, wrestling and taek-wondo taking the first crack at winning some of the initial medals for the country.
The national track and field team headed by reign-ing Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Eric Cray and former Asian long-jump queen Marestella Torres will also see action as the country aims to secure medals in 17 out of the 41 events that Filipino athletes have been entered.
Grappler Alvin Lobre-guito pocketed the first medal for the Philippines in the men’s freestyle -57kg traditional wrestling a day before the lavish opening ceremony at the ultramo-dern Ashgabat Olympic Stadium here.
Over 6,000 athletes from 62 countries will compete in 21 sports during the 12-day sportsfest considered as the biggest indoor games in the conti-nent with the inclusion of the Oceania region led by Australia and New Zealand.
Cray, the SEA Games 400m hurdles record-holder, will try his luck in the 60m hurdles and 60m sprint on Tuesday.
Also competing here is former Asian long jump queen Marestella Torres-Sunang.
A gold medal winner during the 2009 Asian Athletics Championships in Guangdong, China, the 36-year-old Torres-Sunang hopes to get a podium finish, something she’d like to do as she nears retire-ment.
She captured a bronze medal in the last KL SEA Games.
Also seeing action at the Indoor Trand and Field Stadium are Mervin Guarte and Marco Vilog, partici-pants in the 800m prelimi-nary round, with Guarte also set to compete in the 1500m preliminaries.
The finals of the 800m and 1500m are scheduled Wednesday. Janry Ubas, meanwhile, will aim for a podium finish in the long jump event set Tuesday.
Taekwondo jins Jenar Torillos (54kg), Samuel Thomas Morrison (74kg), Karen Celis (46kg) and Levita Ronna Ilao (46kg) are set to see action, all targeting to get a medal in this event organized by the Olympic Council of Asia.
In jiu-jitsu, the Philip-pines will have Asian champion Apryl Eppinger (62kg), Alexander Lim (69kg), Terrence Hansel Co (77kg), Gilbert Ombao (94kg) and Lou-Ann Jindani (70kg).
The grapplers that will vie for medals in the traditional wrestling classic include Michael Vijay Cater (57kg), Jonathan Maquilan (62kg), Jhonny Morte (68kg), Jeff Mana-tad (75kg), Cristof Hoff-man Jr. (90kg), Grace Loberanes (52kg) and Noemi Tener (58kg).