The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is arguably the most coveted and most anticipated multi-sport event in the region.
Every two years, the 11 participating nations select the best of the best and send them to a grueling competition of strength, hardwork and determination.
And every two years, athletes of all ages convene to prove that age is not a barrier, especially to those who persevere.
Take, for example, the 65-year old, billiards great Efren “Bata” Reyes competes in the 3 cushion carom men’s singles or the 19-year old world champion Carlos Yulo who recently struck gold in the Individual All-Around edition of the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics.
Likewise, the men’s and women’s volleyball tournaments of the 2019 SEA Games will feature battle-tested veterans and up-and-coming young players.
In like with this, FOX Sports Philippines tracked down the oldest and the youngest competitors vying in the December 2-11 event at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig.
PLEUMJIT THINKAOW, 36, THAILAND
At 36, Pleumjit Thinkaow is the oldest women’s volleyball player in the Games.
The middle blocker from Thailand made her international debut in the biennial meet at the 21st edition held in Malaysia. Since, the Thai legend has already racked up nine gold medals and is looking to make it 10 in what could be her last hurrah in the Games.
The multi-awarded defender is one of the backbones of Thailand’s dominance in the region and global dominance alongside Wilavan Apinyapong, 35, and Nootsara Tomkom, 34.
JESSIE LOPEZ, 33, PHILIPPINES
Jessie Lopez would have been a seasoned SEAG player had the Philippines did not take a 10-year hiatus. He is a crafty setter, a composed player and a natural leader — a complete national team campaigner.
But when the country returned in 2015, Ateneo’s Ish Polvorosa and Timothy Sto. Tomas, Jr. served as the setters while Geuel Asia and Relan Taneo took over in 2017.
This year is different as the 33-year old playmaker out of Far Eastern University will be seeing action with the men’s national team as they look to end a 14-year medal drought. He is presently the oldest men’s volleyball player in the tournament.
RATRI WULANDARI, 17, INDONESIA
Ace spiker April Manganang will not compete in this year’s SEAG. But Indonesia could instead look into the positive side of the situation as this could be the breakthrough stint for Ratri Wulandari, the youngest player in the women’s division.
The 17-year old outside hitter has already shown what she is capable of when she led the Indonesian squad to a back-to-back silver medal in the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix.
In fact, Philippines has had a hard time containing the 5-foot-10 Wulandari’s attacks and aces during their two encounters, both of which were won by Indonesia.
JORDAN RYAN WONG, 16, SINGAPORE
While typical teenagers his age will probably sit and watch from the sidelines, Jordan Ryan Wong of Singapore will be on the taraflex playing against the region’s toughest volleyball tourney.
Wong, 16, is the youngest player in the men’s division.
Much like the Philippines, Wong and the Singaporean team seek to return to podium after their last medal finish in 1993, where they claimed third.
(Images from Instagram/Pleumjit Thinkaow and Ratri Wulandari and Facebook/Sports Vision)