MANILA, Philippines — World No. 85 Myca Aribado took out hometowner Emma Millar, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10 in the final to capture the women’s singles gold medal at the Squash Gym International Classic in Palmerston North, New Zealand, last Sunday.
It wasn’t an easy road to the title for the 24-year-old University of Makati graduate who teamed with Aysah Dalida to claim the silver medal in women’s jumbo doubles at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. She disposed of New Zealand’s Charlotte Galloway, 11-3, 11-5, 11-9, Singapore’s Au Yeong Wai Yhann, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 and world No. 57 Australian top-seed Sarah Caldwell, 5-11, 11-9, 1-11, 13-11, 11-7 in 52 minutes before repulsing Millar, 27, in 37 minutes. The feat marked the Philippines’ first-ever championship in a Professional Squash Association event.
Philippine Squash Academy president Bob Bachmann said Aribado is training under former Philippine champion and SEA Games bronze medalist Manu (Manny Boy) Yam in New Zealand. “She’s alone in New Zealand,” said Bachmann. “Myca has been there for a couple of weeks now and she’s staying at Manu’s home. She’ll be back next week to train under Carl Koenig in Manila with the rest of our team for two months in preparation for the Asian Games.”
Koenig, 61, is the South African coach of world No. 20 Australian Cameron Pilley who took the gold in mixed doubles at the Commonwealth Games this year. Koenig trained Aribado for 10 weeks in Amsterdam in 2015 to prepare her for the SEA Games and she went on to become the first female player to win a medal in squash for the Philippines.
Four gold medals in squash will be up for grabs at the Asian Games in Indonesia on Aug. 18-Sept. 2. The events are men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s team and women’s team. The national squad, dubbed “Kayod Pilipinas,” is made up of four men – Robert Garcia, David Pelino, MacMac Begornia, Dondon Espinola – and four women – Aribado, Dalida, Rina Borromeo of the University of Pennsylvania, Andrea Jemiolo of Greenwich Academy in Connecticut. Bachmann said Borromeo and Jemiolo are now training in Europe. They will be in Manila a month before the start of the Asian Games. World No. 208 Filipino-Malaysian Valentino Bong, 29, will be eligible to play for the Philippines starting in January next year.
Last April, world No. 267 Garcia, 32, clinched the gold medal by downing Malaysia’s Farez Izwan, 14-2, 11-9, 8-11, 11-7 in the final of the 4th SEA Cup in Bandung, Indonesia. It was a fitting warm-up in training for the Asian Games where Malaysia has been the dominant country since squash was introduced in 1998. Malaysia has won nine gold medals so far and the only other Asian nations to hit paydirt were Pakistan with two and HongKong, India and Kuwait with one each. South Korea and Singapore have bagged bronze medals.
At the last SEA Games, the Philippines made a historic breakthrough in squash with a record eight medals, two silver and six bronze. The men’s team of Garcia, Begornia, Pelino and Rafa Yam took the silver while Aribado and Dalida finished second in women’s jumbo doubles. The silvers in squash were the first-ever by the Philippines in SEA Games history.