by Rey Bancod
NAY PYI TAW – The national taekwondo team arrived Thursday afternoon without world junior champion Mikaela Calamba who pulled out three weeks before the 27th Southeast Asian Games.
Her absence is expected to hurt the chance of the women’s poomsae team which is defending its title next week.
Two years ago, the trio of Janice Lagman, Rani Ann Ortega and Camille Alarilla edged then world champion Vietnam to win the gold medal in Indonesia.
Alarilla has since retired to concentrate on her law studies, her place taken by Calamba.
Last month, the trio placed third in the world championships in Bali, Indonesia.
Also out of the team is Jean Pierre Sabido, who took the silver in the men’s individual in Bali.
Sabido has been appointed coach of the poomsae team in lieu of Igor Mella who is acting as international referee of the Games.
Sabido said Calamba’s abrupt withdrawal shocked the team that has been looking forward to a productive performance.
“Mikaela cited personal and school problems and the association accepted her reasons,” said Sabido. “We only found out because she did not arrive on her expected date from Cebu.”
Mikaela is a graduating high school at University of San Carlos in Cebu City.
Taking the place of Mikaela is Rina Babanto, member of the junior trio that also won the gold at the worlds. Sabido, 30, said he believes that Vidal Marvin Gabriel and the rest of the men’s team will make a good account of themselves.
Gabriel took the bronze the last time around in Indonesia.
“We have a strong men’s team. They won silver at the worlds,” said Sabido who concedes that he’s on the twilight of his career. Competing with Gabriel in men’s trio are brothers Dustin and Raphael Enrico Mella.
Also arriving are 12 fi ghters, led by defending champion Kirstie Ellaine Alora.
The others are Francis Aaron Agojo, Paul Romero, Gershon Bautista, Samuel Morrison, Christian dela Cruz, Kristopher Uy, Mary Anjelay Pelaez, Maria Isabela Mora, Pauline Louise Lopez, Jade Zafra and Jane Rafaelle Narra.
Japoy Lizardo, one of four gold medalists in 2011, got injured during the worlds and has been assigned as coach.
Camille Mariano, another 2011 winner, is also out because of ACL injury.
World junior champion Mikaela Calamba pulled out of the national team three weeks before the 27th Southeast Asian Games, a sudden development that hurt the country’s chances in taekwondo.