The Philippine women’s team was crowned Asian underwater hockey champion in one of its toughest competitions yet. Team captain Chari Ongyanco said of the win, “We trained long and hard for this day, so to come out on top is a big honor for our team and our country.” The 10-member squad, made up of players from the biggest underwater hockey group in the Philippines, Manila-based 3P Underwater Hockey Club, beat defending champion Singapore to take gold in the women’s division of the Asian Underwater Hockey Championship held November 13 to 15, 2015 in Tangerang, Indonesia.
Philippine women had dominated Asian underwater hockey in 2007, 2008, and 2009 until settling for silver in 2011 and 2013. “After a series of slumps, we’re extremely fulfilled and proud to get the gold back,” said vice-captain and the tournament’s top female scorer, Nadja Buenafe. Losing against Singapore 4-1 in the round robin eliminations, Philippines made a determined comeback leading throughout the finals and ultimately sealing its victory with a score of 3-2.
Invented in the 1950s, underwater hockey is a sport played on the bottom of a pool between two teams of 10. Wearing a snorkel, mask, and fins, players dive down to push a 1.2kg puck along the pool bottom with a small stick. Only six players are allowed under water at any time, and with breathing issues to consider, players must choose tactically when to dive. The sport started in the Philippines in 1979.
The Philippine-TR2X team, a mix of PHL’s top men and women and captained by Michelle Uy, won first place in the Mixed-Plate division. The Philippine Men’s team, led by veteran hockey player, Jay Bejar, took silver.