Wushu warrior owns PH’s most precious medal so far at Asian Games

Arnel Mandal (right) gives the Philippines its first silver medal in the Asian Games.

For the next few days, Arnel Mandal will hold the distinction of being the best finisher among Filipino athletes in the 19th Asian Games (Asiad) here in Hangzhou, China. “I wasn’t expecting any of this, I’m super happy,’’ said the wushu warrior after his first Asian Games stint ended on Thursday with a silver medal in the men’s sanda 56-kilogram (kg) division.

The former sanda world champion lost to China’s Jiang Haidong in their final faceoff, 2-0, at Xiaoshan Guali Sports Centre for the country’s first silver medal in the continental Olympics.

“I was even forced to go up to a heavier class and still got a medal,’’ said the 27-year-old Mandal after his usual fighting weight of 52kg was scrubbed off the Asian Games program, forcing the two-time silver medalist in the world championships to jump to a bulkier category.

Mandal’s feat underlined a fruitful national wushu team campaign here.

Taolu performer Jones Inso touched off the wushu medal binge with a bronze in the men’s taijiquan-taijijian all-around prior to the sanda fighters’ string of podium finishes, including two more bronzes from Gideon Padua (60kg) and Clemente Tabugara Jr. (65kg).

“It was do or die. I poured everything. I came looking for a lucky punch, but it never came,’’ said Mandal, whose next stop is the World Sanda Championship in Fort Worth, Texas in November.

“He’s (Jiang) good. In fact, he managed to take me down,’’ said Mandal, who will receive a P1-million cash incentive from the government for the silver medal and could receive more bonuses from the Philippine Olympic Committee and Malacañang as well.

“I haven’t thought about it yet,’’ said Mandal, the first Filipino millionaire in these Games, smiling when asked what he will do with his windfall.

Olympic ticket

Tennis star Alex Eala knows exactly what to think of next after settling for a bronze medal in her first Asiad.

The 18-year-old tennis star is now looking forward to more tournaments to bump up her ranking points after failing to qualify for the Paris Olympics outright here.

“I knew from the start that it would be very difficult. It’s a high level competition and I didn’t expect much,’’ said Eala after losing to top seed Zheng Qinwen of China, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in a tense semifinal encounter in the tennis women’s singles at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Tennis Court.

The Asian Games offers an Olympic ticket to the winners of the singles categories in tennis.

“The Olympics is definitely one of the goals and my current ranking isn’t enough. I’ll just have to do my best,’’ said Eala, presently ranked No. 192 in the world.

Meanwhile, Gilas Pilipinas scored its second straight victory in men’s basketball, an 87-72 rout of Thailand at Zhejiang University Gymnasium.

Brownlee led the Philippines with 22 points and 15 rebounds despite nagging pain bothering him all game long.

“[H]is leg, his foot was bothering him. I’d say he was about 80 percent today, 85 percent at the most; there were times he was coming down the floor, he was limping,” he said of his resident import at Barangay Ginebra.

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“He is such a trooper and he’s playing through it for only one reason: ‘cause he’s on the national team,” he added.

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