By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Ilonggo wushu sensation Arnel Mandal concluded his Asian Games campaign with an impressive silver medal finish last September 28, 2023, held in Hangzhou, China.
The native of Arevalo, Iloilo City delivered the first silver medal for the Philippines despite falling short against Jiang Haidong of China in the grand finals of the men’s Sanda 56-kg category.
Mandal gave the home bet a tough challenge despite fighting in unfamiliar territory during the two-round championship bout.
The Chinese star immediately put his imprints on Mandal after hitting him with four consecutive hook combinations but the Ilonggo responded with a clean sneaky straight.
Energized by the cheers from his fellow countrymen, Jiang fought like there was no tomorrow and was ultra-aggressive against Mandal, hounding him with immense pressure that forced the Ilonggo to backpedal every time.
Jiang replicated his explosive start in the second round but Mandal adjusted his offense and decided to go toe-to-toe in the remaining minutes of the gold medal match.
Mandal had his moments in the last round after unleashing several right bombs that landed cleanly but the Chinese fighter retreated in the last 15 seconds to avoid further damage.
The 27-year-old Ilonggo may not win the gold just like his Southeast Asian Games campaign last year but he was the first athlete to surpass the bronze medal finish in all of the Filipino athletes so far.
Joining Mandal in the PHL national wushu team who clinched medals were Gideon Padua, Clemente Tabugara Jr., and Jones Inso.