Taking home a silver and a bronze at the tough Asian Seniors Kurash Championships in Hangzhou, China is something the Philippines can be proud of. Thanks to Charmea Quelino who bagged the silver medal in the women’s -63kg category and Nick Gabriel Ligero who took the bronze in the men’s -60kg category last week, Filipinos proved they have the potential to excel in the sport given more training and foreign exposure. The Asian Championships, held April 25 to 29 at the Xiaoshan Linpu Gymnasium, was a test event for the Asian Games. The venue will be the training and competition venue for judo, ju-jitsu and kurash during the Asian Games on Sept. 23 to Oct. 8. “I feel so blessed for winning the silver medal. Our team worked so hard and sacrificed a lot for this competition,” said Quelino in an exclusive interview with Philippine News Agency on Saturday. “Honestly, I did not expect that I can keep up and win a medal at the Asian-level because this is only my second international tournament and there are many strong athletes outside of South East Asia,” added the 24-year-old native of Baguio City. Quelino defeated Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Ngoc Nhung and Indian Akshita Sharma to reach the final where she lost to Chinese Zhang Wen. Sharma and Uzbekistan’s Mukhlisakhon Kadirberganov settled for the bronze medals. “My first match was so challenging. She (Vietnamese) is one of the strongest players since the previous SEA (Southeast Asian) Games so I feel blessed when I beat her,” shared Quelino, who captured the silver medal (-52kg) in the Vietnam SEA Games in 2022, where Nguyen Thi Ngoc Nhung, entered in the -57kg category and took the bronze. “I’m super thankful to God because I know I can’t do it without Him. He was the one I held on to the most during the competition. I’m also very thankful to my coaches and teammates because without them, I wouldn’t be able to grow as an athlete. They always push me and teach me for my betterment,” added the 5-foot-2 judoka. After graduating with a double degree (sports studies and psychology) in 2021, she worked for a while at a counseling and consultancy facility for people with substance use disorder. “After graduation, I started working. It was my last year in the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) and I was going to stop my athletic career. But I was invited to apply to the kurash national team so I grabbed the opportunity because I thought I am still young and maybe there was a purpose why the Lord gave me another chance to play. I thought that I don’t want to grow up with regrets of not maximizing my athletic career. So, I decided to leave my job to train with the team for the SEA Games,” she narrated. She also said that preparing for the SEA Games was one of the hardest trainings she had as she lost more than 10 kilograms in just a few weeks. She added that she survived the toughest training because of the support of her teammates. Meanwhile, Ligero’s performance in his first tournament abroad was praiseworthy as he fought with an injury. He lost to Vietnam SEA Games gold medalist Le Cong Hoang Hai in the semifinal round to settle for third place with Indian Om Rattan. Abdulaziz Khamroev of Uzbekistan defeated Le Cong in the final. “It’s been an honor to compete against the Vietnamese because he is one of the most well-known and most admired in kurash. Our game was intense. Because of my dislocated shoulder, when I hold him with my left arm, I can’t stop his other attacks and my grip is too light,” said the UAAP Season 82 Most Valuable Player in 2019. Ligero, born and raised in Sampaloc, Manila, said it has been his long-time dream to become a member of the kurash team. ‘It is truly such an honor and privilege to represent the country and even blessed enough to be able to bring pride to our country,’ Ligero said. Meanwhile, Kurash Sports Federation of the Philippines president Rolan Llamas lauded Quelino, Ligero and the rest of the team. “Our athletes learned a lot from the Asian Championships and their experiences would help them as they prepare for upcoming tournaments such as the Asian Games and Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games,” said Llamas, who is also the deputy president of the Kurash Union of South East Asia. The AIMAG will take place Nov. 17 to 26 in Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok and Chonburi province. Kurash is a traditional Uzbek wrestling style popular in Central Asia. The objective is to throw one another to the ground. Victory is declared if thrown to the back.
Source: Philippines News Agency