SARANGANI, Philippines – Luis Liu of Taiwan came from behind to narrowly edge Yoshiki Oka of Japan and capture the individual title in the 1st International Paragliding Accuracy Competition held in Maasami, Sarangani.
Liu grabbed the lowest score honors with 38 points over four rounds and was also one of the tournament’s two deadest shots, coming within 3 centimeters of the landing pad bulls-eye. He did it in the 3rd round.
Oka, who was leading after four rounds in a course shortened competition, tallied 41 points despite getting 4 points for the best score in the final day of the competition.
The other participant to score 3 points was Nasaruddin Bakar of Indonesia who accomplished it in the 2nd round.
Liu also anchored the Taiwan team to second place finish in the team event won by Team Garuda of Indonesia.
Grabbing third place in the individual event was two-time World Cup titlist Lis Andriana of Indonesia.
The best Filipino finisher was Joseph Oncada who placed 10th in the 40-man field mostly composed of international paragliding pilots.
The Philippine team of Carlaa Montero, Oncada, and Titoy was fourth overall in the team event.
The tournament was slated for 7 rounds but wind conditions forced organizers to shorten the competition to five rounds.
Only four of the five jumps were counted in the score totals of competitors.
Liu had to wait for more 45 minutes before the results were announced. He was cheered heavily by his fellow Taiwanese competitors when the results were posted.
A total of 40 pilots participated in the first even international paragliding competition hosted by the Philippines.
Only 39 however finished the event.
Two participants bowed out of the competition after incurring injuries.
Arief Budiman of Indonesia twisted his ankle upon landing in the first round of the competition.
He was immediately rushed to a local hospital here where x-rays revealed he broke his left ankle.
Budiman stayed as spectator with his left ankle in heavy cast.
An Australian also reduced himself into officiating in the tournament after he sprained his ankle in a test fly a day before the tournament began.
Best in the country
Tournament officials, mostly coming from other countries said the flying course is so far the best in the Philippines and could rival other paragliding sites in the world.
Luke Armbreuster from the US who was the tournament’s safety officer said the fly site is one of the best he has seen in the country.
“The landing area is a little bit tricky because of the unpredictable wind direction but it is okay,” the American said.
The competition site is located at the mountain ranch owned by SAFII.
The launch pad is on top of the mountain with an altitude of 998 meters above sea level.
The landing area is 700 meters below a hill with a flat surface area of more than 5 hectares.
Tournament director Colonel Basir of Malaysia said the Philippines could host a World Cup event in 2016.
“First we will include Philippines in the Asian 3-nation leg circuit next near,” Basir said in the brief huddle with Philippine tourism officials and host organizers.
Tourism Undersecretary Art Boncato said he will push the government to bid for the right to host one of the 6 legs of the World Cup circuit in 2016.
Randell Raymundo, president of Air Sports Association of the Philippines, earlier said the Sarangani fly site could already qualify as host of one of the legs of the world circuit.
Basir said the only drawback is the tricky road going up the launching area.
“If you could improve it, that will be best,” he said.
Marfenio Tan, owner of SAFII ranch, said the local governments of Sarangani and host Maasim have already pledged to pave the access road to the launch area.
Tan also advised organizers to schedule the tournament either the months of May or September when the wind directions generally come from the north.
Raymundo said they are now in the process of applying as member of the Philippine Olympic Committee to give the air sports a boost.
Paragliding accuracy is a young but growing sport where Filipinos could compete with the world’s best paragliders and pilots.
At present, there are only 3 registered flying areas in the country.
The Sarangani paragliding site is the newest in the country but by far the best, Raymundo said.
The other two sites are in Carmona, Cavite and Bontoc in Mountain Province.