Here's What Filipino Fans Should Watch Out For in the Upcoming Asian Games

Here’s What Filipino Fans Should Watch Out For in the Upcoming Asian Games

Here are the major storylines of the Philippine Asian Games delegation that you should watch out for in this year’s edition.

The Asian Games is one of the world’s biggest international multi-sport events after the Olympics. In fact, many athletes regard this as the Olympics of Asia, as every four years, they get to compete against the best of the best in the continent. This year, at the 19th edition of the Asian Games, the Philippines has many storylines to follow.

With almost too many sports to count, it would be a challenge for anyone to follow all the tournaments throughout the Games. And while we’re sure you will be following all the updates of your personal favorite athletes or sports, here are a few storylines we think that every Filipino fan should stay tuned into in the upcoming continental tournament.

The Filipinas: Coming in With Momentum

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team, more commonly referred to as the Filipinas, is still on a high from their historic 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign. As this was the Philippines’ first-ever football World Cup, this has been the squad’s main focus over the past year, and after a successful run that saw the Filipinas pull off an upset over the co-hosts, New Zealand, they will be looking to push this momentum forward in the upcoming Asian Games. But, a few things have changed since the World Cup.

After Alen Stajcic bid his role as head coach of the Filipinas goodbye, the Philippine Football Federation named Australian coach Mark Torasco the team’s new leader, who is hoping to sustain the growth of women’s football in the Philippines. The Asian Games will be his first test.

The Filipinas, who are currently ranked 44th in the world, are in Group E in the Asian Games. They will be facing World No. 20 South Korea, No. 77 Hong Kong, and No. 51 Myanmar. The top two teams will have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament, and the Filipinas are favored to claim one of these slots.

A successful campaign in the Asian Games will be vital for the Filipinas, especially as they strive to create momentum and gain crucial experience as they take on the next stage of the Olympic Qualifiers later this year.

“We knew [the World Cup] was such a big tournament and having that weight on our back to represent where we’re from and who we are, it’s so important to have everyone’s support doing that,” Inna Palacios shared with us when we ran into her at the Vogue Philippines Gala. “Hopefully, it’s just a continuous movement to grow the sport and develop it.”

Gilas Pilipinas: Chasing Redemption
Dwight Ramos for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2023 FIBA World Cup in the Philippines
(Photo credit: Vyn Radovan)

The Filipinas are not the only ones heading into the Asian Games after a World Cup. The Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team, AKA Gilas Pilipinas, is also entering the continental tournament fresh off of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The Gilas men’s World Cup run was one that Filipino fans would call disappointing, given that the team went winless in the Group Stage despite playing with a home-court advantage. Nevertheless, they still managed to close the tournament with a huge victory over China, sending the Philippines’ basketball spirits high once again. And they will be looking to further redeem themselves at the Asian Games.

Similar to the Filipinas, Gilas Pilipinas have a new head coach at the helm going into the continental tournament. After Chot Reyes stepped down from his Gilas post, Tim Cone has been named Interim head coach and is tasked with leading the team to success at the Games.

Gilas Pilipinas will be facing Bahrain, Thailand, and Jordan in the Group Stage of the Asian Games, and if they advance as they are aiming to, there is a chance that they will compete against other competitive Asian teams, Japan and Korea.

Will Gilas be able to pull off a comeback run under new leadership just a few weeks after the World Cup?

Baseball: Facing Giants
The Philippine National Baseball Team will be competing in the 2023 Asian Games
(Photo credit: Philippine Baseball on Facebook)

Another exciting team sport in the Asian Games worth watching out for is the baseball tournament. Although baseball is not necessarily the most popular sport in the Philippines, the country’s national team is a powerhouse in Southeast Asia. In fact, the Filipino batters went undefeated in the recent BFA East Asian Baseball Cup, taking landslide wins over their competitors in the tournament. Now, the team will be looking to take their skills on a bigger stage.

Outside of Southeast Asia, the competition in baseball can get a lot stiffer. This will definitely be the case for the Philippines in the Asian Games. Drawn into Group A, the Philippines, ranked 36th in the world, is set to face World No. 23 China and World No. 1 Japan. These two teams will both be tough competitors, but especially Japan, who recently won the World Baseball Classic, the equivalent of the sport’s World Cup, by defeating powerhouse USA.

Despite the tough competition that the Philippine National Baseball Team will be facing in the Asian Games, this will be a good opportunity for the batters to test their mettle against some of the best players not just in Asia, but in the world.

Track and Field: Ending a Drought
EJ Obiena will be competing in the 2023 Asian Games
(Photo credit: EJ Obiena on Instagram)

The Philippines is very competitive in track and field. In the recent 2023 Southeast Asian Games, for example, the country’s representatives racked up a total of 22 medals for athletics, including four golds. However, unlike the SEA Games, it has been a challenge for our track and field athletes to get on the podium at the Asian Games.

The last time a Filipino won a medal at the Asian Games for track and field was back in 1994 when Elma Muros won the bronze medal for the long jump in Japan. Since then, there has been a medal drought for the sport. But this year, the Philippines has a good chance of breaking this streak, finally.

Among the best contenders to end this slump is Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena. He will be entering the Asian Games with momentum, as he has been winning medal after medal in his competitions this year, including a historic silver in the World Athletics Championships. On top of this, he is also currently ranked second in the world for Men’s Pole Vault.

The Philippines will also have other proven track and field athletes who will be trying their best to win medals for their respective events as well, including Robyn Brown, John Tolentino, Eric Cray, Kristina Knott, and William Morrison.

Tennis: Veterans and Youngsters
Alex Eala will be representing the Philippines in the 2023 Asian Games
(Photo credit: Alex Eala on Instagram)

The Philippines is sending three tennis players to China this year for the 19th Asian Games, and these represent among the best of the best of Philippine tennis. Included in the delegation are Ruben Gonzales, Francis Casey Alcantara, and Alex Eala.

Ruben Gonzales is an eight-time Southeast Asian Games medalist, while Francis Casey Alcantara is a Junior Grand Slam doubles winner himself, as well as a six-time SEA Games medalist. As two veterans of the sport, aged 37 and 31, respectively, they will be bringing their level of expertise to the Asian Games in hopes of reaching the podium.

Alex Eala, on the other hand, is the youngest of the three, at only 18 years old. However, despite her age, she is one of the country’s most promising athletes. She is a graduate of the Rafael Nadal Academy, a US Open Junior singles champion, and currently holds four professional singles titles. She has been on the road, competing in many pro tournaments throughout the entire year, and she will definitely be bringing this momentum to China for the Games.

Alcantara will be competing in the men’s singles and doubles, paired with Gonzales, who will also be teaming up with Eala for the mixed doubles. Alex Eala will compete in the women’s singles to round out the tennis competition this year.

Medal Count: Can the Philippines top their last tally?
The Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games
(Photo credit: AFP)

In the previous Asian Games edition held in 2018, the Philippines came home with four gold medals, two silver, and 15 bronze, for a total tally of 21. This year, the country’s representatives will surely be aiming to top this count, especially in the gold medal area.

With many promising athletes carrying the Philippine flag to the Asian Games this year, hopes of achieving this goal are definitely high.

Banner images from Women’s World Cup on Facebook, Vyn Radovan, EJ Obiena on Instagram, Alex Eala on Instagram.

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