KUALA LUMPUR — All eyes will be on Rheyjey Ortouste and Jason Huerte when they compete in the men’s doubles event in sepak takraw on Monday at the Indoor Stadium in Titiwangsa, which is located in the northern part of Malaysia’s capital city.
The two are the reigning world champions, winning the title after beating Myanmar in the final of the World Sepak Takraw Championships October last year in Bangkok, Thailand.
Ortouste, who was born and raised in Barangay Labangon in Cebu City, claimed that winning the gold in the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) is achievable.
“Kayang-kaya natin mag-gold. Pinag-mature kami ng panahon, yun ang masasabi ko sa team-up namin ni Jason,” said the 23-year-old Ortouste, whose partnership with Huerte began when he debuted in the 2011 SEA Games held in Palembang, Indonesia, where they won the bronze medal.
In the same year, he joined the King’s Cup in Thailand where he won the silver medal in the regu event. Ortouste and Huerte duplicated their bronze medal finish in the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar and two years after, they won the silver in Singapore.
“Tuwang-tuwa po kami nang makuha ang silver sa Singapore kaya ngayon, target namin na makuha ang ginto,” said Ortouste, whose first international tournament was the ASEAN School Games in Malaysia.
Ortouste was a student at the Javellana National High School when he saw action in the 2009 Palarong Pambansa, winning the gold in the team event representing Central Visayas. The following year, he won the gold in the best regu event. In 2011, he won the silver in the best regu event and the bronze in the team event.
Sepak takraw has produced the Philippines’ first medal in the SEA Games last week after the men’s team of Alvin Pangan, Emmanuel Escote, Joeart Jumawan, John Carlo Lee, John Jefrey Morcillos, John John Bobier, Regie Reznan Pabriga, Rhemwil Catana and Ronsited Gabayeron won the silver medal in the Men’s Chinlone-Linking event.
Karen Tanchanco-Caballero, president of Philippine Amateur Sepak Takraw Association (PASTA), has expressed her gratitude to the all-out support of the Philippine Sports Commission to her athletes, who were able to attend training camps and compete in international and local tournaments.
“I am confident that with the support of PSC for international training and exposure games, our team has sufficient confidence and better knowledge with our opponents,” said Caballero.
Last month, her team won a silver and bronze medals in the regu event of the 13th International French Open Sepak Takraw tournament in Gran Est, north-eastern France.
The men’s team of John Carlo Lee, John John Bobier, Emmanuel Escote and Regie Reznan Pabriga took the silver medal in the competition held at the Gymnase Des Maltier in Schiltigheim town. Thailand clinched the gold medal while China settled for the bronze.
The women’s squad composed of Kristel Carloman, Mary Ann Lopez, Rizzalyn Amolacion, Jean Marie Sucalit and Lhaina Lhiell Mangubat finished third behind champion Thailand and China.
“This [French Open] was intended as pre-SEAG exposure to help our athletes get better competition and boost their confidence, especially the ladies team. Our women players are new and needed more exposure,” said Caballero, who joined the trip to Paris as team manager.
Caballero also noted the importance of attending training camps where Filipino athletes are exposed to the training regimen of their foreign counterparts.
“The camps in Thailand last year and Myanmar this year taught our team to better understand how other countries train,” said Caballero, whose election as vice president of the Asian Sepak Takraw Federation (ASTF) made her the first woman vice president of the Continental Sports Federation of Sepak Takraw.