CEBU CITY-THE NATIONAL PENCAK SILAT squad found a third hope in its quest for a first-ever gold medal in the sport in the Southeast Asian Games when skipper Christopher Yabut pummeled Thai Yuhuna Bairaman in the semifinals yesterday at the Cebu Coliseum.
The squad's head coach, however, sacrificed a fourth chance when he put the welfare of his ward above the quest for victory.
Yabut, the unshakeable anchor of a team hoping to give a supportive Cebuano crowd something to rock the house with, never gave Bairaman a chance, hammering out a 5-0 victory built around cat-quick kicks and furious punches in their 50-55kg encounter.
"I've been in this position before and I've always come up short," said Yabut, ranked No. 1 in the world in his category. "The mistakes I made in the past would do well to help me get the gold."
The 29-year-old Yabut iced the match with several throwdowns that underscored his determination to claim the gold in tomorrow's finals.
In the 55-60kg class, the Philippines lost out on a gold medal shot and settled for the bronze when foreign head coach Suhartono refused to risk Abzhar Abdurasad's health just to improve on the country's championship bid.
Abdurasad was knocked out cold by an illegal kick to the head by Singapore's Mohamed Ramli in Thursday's quarterfinal round. He is, however, already assured of the bronze medal.
"I'd rather sacrifice the gold than put any of my players in any more danger, considering the injury Adzhar incurred [Thursday]," said Suhartono.
Written by JONAS REY N. PANERIO
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