Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub’s Olympic-size, 50-meter swimming pool is the only pool in the country fully compliant with international federation for underwater hockey standards
The Philippines is once again on the verge of history at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Underwater hockey is one of six new sports in the 30th edition of the SEA Games, a multisport event participated by 11 countries.
“Our country is hosting the largest and most professionally run SEA Games ever, and this 30th edition is shaping up to be so,” says Dennis Valdes, president of the Philippine Underwater Hockey Confederation (PUHC) and competition manager for SEA Games underwater hockey (UWH).
Underwater hockey will have four events—men’s and women’s 4×4 and 6×6—with the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore all competing. And the Philippine UWH team is serious in its bid to win gold medals.
To make this happen, the PUHC, the national sports association for underwater hockey in the country, has been training the athletes that will form the national team for over 10 months. According to PUHC secretary general Nadja Buenafe, finding a suitable pool for underwater hockey in the Philippines is a real challenge.
The swimming pool must accommodate two playing courts, must have a depth of at least two meters, the bottom must be smooth and free of sharp edges, and visibility underwater must be clear to see the pool walls from end to end.
“The Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub swimming pool is the only venue that meets all these requirements,” she says.
Tristan Reynard, world tournament director of the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS), the international federation for underwater hockey, visited the country for Phisgoc’s 1st Technical Delegates Meeting in December 2018. At the time, he toured the various pools available for underwater hockey and declared that only the Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub pool was fully compliant with all the CMAS requirements for an underwater hockey venue.
“We’re very happy to have the underwater hockey team train in our very own pool. I believe they will have more advantage to win in the SEA Games as they are able to train in a pool that follows world-class standards,” says Jay Teodoro, assistant vice president/estate head of Vermosa, Ayala Land Inc.
As a test event for SEA Games 2019, PUHC and Vermosa hosted the Manila Underwater Hockey Invitational in March 2019. The successful turnout opened many opportunities for the sport and the Philippine team. A total of 170 athletes from 17 different countries participated in the four-day event.
“At this stage, the whole team is focusing on improving our underwater fitness and skills. I think the team is progressing very well. We’ve seen big improvements in our fitness since we started training for the SEA Games. We are also trying out different formations and plays to see what’s best to use given the team’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Chari Ongyanco, team captain of UWH women’s team.
The team has been bringing pride to the country by taking home five gold and two silver medals in the past seven times that the Asian Underwater Hockey Championships has been held.
“Our athletes are pouring their hearts and souls into training, and everyone is doing what needs to be done. We’re grateful for the support given by the Philippine Sports Commission, Phisgoc, the SEA Games organizers, and our training venue Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub,” adds Buenafe.