Hanoi—She was just chillin’ in the heats, but blazin’ in the finals.
Kayla Richardson crowned herself the fastest woman in the 31st SEA Games for the second time in seven years in a smoldering show at the century dash that brought athletics’ centerpiece crown back in her hands.
The 26-year-old Richardson was the 100-m queen of the 2015 Singapore games, but somehow faded into the backseat when she yielded the spotlight to Kristina Knott in recent years.
Knott became the darling of Philippine athletics in the 2019 edition when she won two golds in the 4×100 mixed relay and the 200 meters. Knott, who eventually qualified in the Tokyo Olympics, however, had to skip the Hanoi games due to plantar fasciitis in her foot, leaving the spotlight to teammates Kayla and Kyla Richardson.
At the My Dinh National Stadium here, Kayla made sure the limelight was hers.
A slow starter, Richardson picked up the pace halfway through the 100-meter finals and held steady to the finish, clocking 11.6 seconds to master an 8-runner field that included 200-m queen, Singapore’s Shanti Pereira, who placed runner-up with a time of 11.62.
Thailand’s Supanich Poolkerd finished third in 11.66 seconds.
Kayla’s time was even better than her 11.76 in Singapore.
“I can’t complain. I’m so grateful. It took me a lot to get here. I thank God for getting me here,” said a teary-eyed Richardson, after sharing a sweet embrace with sister Kyla and father Jeff.
Richardson only placed second in the heats with a 12.02 time, but it was a ploy to reserve strength for the race that mattered most.
“I was just chillin’,” said Richardson with a laugh. “I was just trying to get to the finals.”
With the win, Kayla, redeemed herself from a bronze finish in the 200 meters, topped by Pereira. Her sister Kyla settled for the silver.
Kayla’s feat was the fifth gold for the athletics’ contingent in the biennial meet, to go with Eric Cray’s 5th straight title in the 400-m hurdles, Ernest John Obiena’s record-smashing performance in pole vault, William Morrison’s shotput triumph, and Clinton Kingsley Bautista’s new national record of 13.78 seconds in the 110m hurdles that broke his own 13.97 set during the 2019 SEA Games.
Meanwhile, Cray, barely 24 hours after winning the 400-m hurdles and a seventh gold overall in the biennial meet, failed to advance to the 100-meter finals, but the 33-year-old runner vowed to make it to the Olympics this time, which will be held in Paris two years from now.
In other results Tuesday, Sarah Dequinan bagged the silver medal in the heptahlon with 5381 points; even as Robyn Brown secured the bronze by clocking 56.44 seconds in the Women’s 400m Hurdles.