The vaunted triathlon team delivered a pair of 1-2 finishes in the men's and women's races to nudge the Philippine production somehow on Monday in the 29th Southeast Asian Games Monday at the Water Sports Complex in Putrajaya City.
Nikko Huelgas and Kim Mangrobang emerged with masterful performances in the men’s and women’s triathlon events, although a slow day in other fronts had failed to create a major shake in the medal standings.
But they were enough to provide a ray of hope for a country that remains hunting for 47 more gold medals to match the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) target of 50 that would make the campaign a massive success.
Huelgas, also the gold medalist in the previous SEA Games in Singapore, clocked one hour, 59 minutes and 21 seconds to retain his crown while teammate John Chicano timed 2:01:26 to formally complete a gold-silver medal performance in men’s triathlon.
On the same note, Mangrobang, who spent the past year in a grueling training program in her bid to make the next Olympics in Tokyo, registered 2:11:14 to win the gold medal in the women's race. Last SEA Games’ gold-medal winner, Ma. Claire Adorna, settled for the silver this time with 2:18:58. After lagging behind Singaporean Clement Chow in the 1.5-kilometer swim on the beautiful man-made lake, Huelgas regained his bearing in the bike category and got support from Chicano in the second loop of the bike race. Mangrobang and Adorna displayed the same selfless teamwork in the distaff side that allowed them to remove the hometown bet Irene Wong out of the gold-medal equation. “It’s okay that I lose the gold,” said Adorna, who ran alongside Mangrobang up to transition two before suffering from cramps that prompted her to give her teammate the go-signal to zoom to victory.
“It doesn’t matter who would won. The important thing is that we kept the gold and silver medals. This victory is for the country. We had a very good strategy and we played perfectly as a team.” The archery range also served as a venue of the Philippines’ medal haul as Florante Matan, Gabriel Moreno and Mark Javier as well as Nicole Marie Tagle, Mary Queen Ybanez and Kareel Meer Hongitan claimed the bronze in the men’s and women’s recurve events at the National Sports Center Synthetic Turf Field.
The troika of Matan, Moreno and Javier was completely outclassed by the Malaysians, 54-57, 53-58,
49-52, before bouncing back against the Vietnamese in the bronze medal game, 50-49, 55-54, 52-55. The triumvirate of Tagle, Ybanez and Meer, suffered the same fate by losing to Indonesia, 50-52, 55-54, 54-56, 52-55, before recovering against Vietnam to salvage the bronze, 51-44, 50-47, 55-47.
Also emerging with a medal was the sepak takraw squad of Rizalyn Amolacion, Mary Ann Lopez, Jean Marie Sucalit, Kristel Karloman and Lhaina Lhiell Mangubat, which dominated Indonesia for the bronze medal in women’s regu event of sepak takraw. It was sepak takraw team’s second medal in the biennial meet after its men’s team delivered a silver in the chinlone event in the early stretch of the tournament. The national fencers and a young wushu artist also delivered.
Samantha Catantan emerged with a silver medal while Maxine Esteban ran away with a bronze medal in the women’s individual foil event of fencing competition.
In wushu, Agatha Wong scored 9.65 points to punch the silver meal in women’s optional taijian. With those impressive victories, the Philippines climbed a notch higher in the meet’s official medal tally with three gold, six silver and six bronze medals.
The Nationals are now behind top-running Malaysia which has 21 gold, 18 silver and 15 bronze medals while Singapore is in far second with nine gold, 10 silver and eight bronze meadals. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are just slightly ahead of the Phiippines but the rankings could change depending on the results of athletics, karate, billiards, fencing, gymnastics and other sports on Tuesday and Wednesday where Filipinos also have a golden chances.
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