KUALA LUMPUR – Reigning champion Ian Clark Bautista survived a boisterous home crowd and a gritty Abdul Salam B. Kasim of Malaysia to score a unanimous decision victory and advance to the semifinals of the flyweight division of the 29th Southeast Asian Games Sunday at the MITEC Hall 8 here.
The 22-year old pride of Binalbagan, Negros Occidental had a strong start, pouncing hard on the head and body of the hometown bet to claim the win and be assured of at least a bronze medal.
Also emerging victorious was Mario Fernandez, who stopped Maung Nge of Myanmar in the first round of the bantamweight preliminaries.
Bautista said he went for the knockdown, knowing that he is competing in a hostile territory.
But the Malaysian was simply tough.
“Ninenerbyos po ako kapag nagsisigawan na ang mga tao. Pero mas natakot ako kasi baka maiba ang desisyon ng mga judges kaya pinilit kong pabagsakin sya. Kaya lang matibay talaga,” said Bautista who fell short in the Aiba World Olympic Qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan last year.
National coaches Pat Gaspi and Elias Recaido were elated over Bautista’s victory, but remain cautious over the toughness of the field.
“Medyo nanggigil sa second round kaya napapasukan sya,” Recaido said. “Plano talaga namin is tapusin na nung first round dahil baka makuhanan kami ng hometown (decision). Mabuti na lang at convincing naman ang panalo.”
Meanwhile, the quest for gold in triathlon kicks off as reigning Southeast Asian Games champions Nikko Huelgas and Ma. Claire Adorna shift their campaign to a higher gear Monday at the Water Sports Complex in nearby Putrajaya City.
Huelgas and Adorna are heavily favored to deliver a pair of mints following remarkable performances in the World Cup, Asian Championships and Subic International competitions.
And with Kim Mangrobang and John Chicano competing with them, coach Rick
Reyes expect the national triathletes to come up with a 1-2 finish in the men’s and women’s divisions.
“We don’t see anybody threatening us,” Reyes said.
Reyes based his expectation on their previous performance in elite tournaments.
Mangrobang placed 19th in the Tiszaujvaros ITU (International Triathlon Union) Triathlon World Cup in Hungary last June 22.