UNDERWATER hockey is making its debut in the 30th Southeast Asian Games and the Philippine team strives to make a splash when the biennial meet arrives at our shores.
Dennis Valdes, president of the Philippine Underwater Hockey Federation, has noted his team’s hard work and dedication and hopes these can be translated into medals.
“I believe the Philippine UWH Team will do very well at the SEA Games. I am personally hoping to get four gold medals out of the four events. Of course, this cannot be guaranteed, but our athletes are training very hard for this goal,” said Valdes.
Also known as Octopush, underwater hockey is a sport in which two teams compete to drive a puck across the bottom of a swimming pool into the opposing team's goal by propelling it with a hockey stick.
Four gold medals are at stake in the men's 4x4 and 6x6, and women's 4x4 and 6x6 competition categories set on December 2 and 3 at the New Clark City in Tarlac.
“At the beginning of our SEAG journey last December, I told the prospective athletes that I want one year of their lives. This has not been an exaggeration. All have sacrificed an enormous amount of time this year. They have had to ask their families for understanding, their bosses at work for support, and most importantly, their own selves for the drive and capacity to keep training for an entire year just to peak during the week of SEAG,” the UWH official revealed.
In order to ramp up the training of the underwater hockey players, the federation sent them to the Australian Underwater Hockey National Championships in Cairns, Australia, where PH top athlete Christian Policarpio played under the New South Wales Men’s Masters team.
“For the Men's Team, we have high hopes for our forward Topz Policarpo. For the Women's Team, it’s our forward, Nadj Buenafe. We hope that both will score a lot of goals for Team Philippines,” added Valdes.
The teams’ overseas exposures have been coupled with their continuous training, aided by coaches the Philippine Sports Commission has provided.
“It is our duty to ensure that our athletes, especially those training for the nearest competition in the calendar, which is the SEAG, get ample time to train both at home and overseas,” PSC Chairman William Ramirez said.
“The Philippine underwater hockey squad could be new, but its members have shown dedication to their sport and we will count on them to give our fellow Philippines big things to cheer on,” Ramirez added.
The men's team is expected to mix it up in the gold medal running, while the women's team is the team to beat after winning the Asian Championships twice.
“The preparation for the SEAG has been an incredible journey for the athletes, plus all the people around them, who are so supportive of their efforts. Looking back at the year, I can say that whatever happens during the SEA Games, all can be assured that Team PHI did everything possible to attain the golds. We all trained, we all got support, we all gave what we could. We hope that all that is good enough to attain four golds,” Valdes shared.
Furthermore, the UWH official expects Singapore to be their toughest opponent, although Indonesia and Malaysia are also known to give their best.