By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WHILE it remains to be seen if the Philippines will end up on top of the medal standings in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, one thing is certain, it is going to surpass its showing in the last edition of the biennial regional sporting meet.
Boosted by a solid start to its campaign on the official kickoff of the competition on Dec. 1, where it tallied a medal haul 22 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze medals, Team Philippines has assured itself of a far better finish in this year’s Games, which the country is hosting for the fourth time in history, following 1981, 1991 and 2005.
The 22 gold medals won by the Filipino athletes on Sunday was just two shy of the 24 the Philippines won in all of the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where it also got 33 silver and 64 bronze medals.
With the strong showing on opening day, the country also put itself in a position to surpass the 113-84-94 medal loot it went away with in 2005 here, the last time the Philippines topped the SEA Games.
Triathletes Juan Chicano and Kim Mangrobang got the gold rush going for the host country by topping the men’s and women’s triathlon events in the morning of Sunday.
Wushu’s Agatha Wong followed suit when she successfully defended her title in the taolu taijiquan event.
Olympic-bound gymnast Carlos Yulo added gold when he won men’s artistic gymnastics individual all-around.
The deluge of gold also came from dancesport, sepak takraw, arnis and kurash.
SURPASSING 2017 GOLD MEDAL HAUL
Meanwhile, the 23rd gold medal for the Philippines came in the morning of Monday with endurance sports showing the way anew.
Duathlete Monica Torres won the women’s duathlon event held at the Subic Bay Boardwalk in Zambales.
Ms. Torres conquered the run-bike-run event with a time of 2:08:44. Finishing second was Sonsem Pareeya of Thailand (2:11:18) and third was Nguyen Thi, Phuong Trinh of Vietnam (2:14:20).
The veteran and champion duathlete said she was proud of her performance considering she had to battle an upset stomach along the way.
“I was expecting to do well on the bike but I struggled because of an upset stomach, forcing me to throw up,” said Ms. Torres after her win.
The Philippines then surpassed the total gold medal it won two years ago thanks to the top hardware won by cyclists Lea Denise Belgira and John Derrick Farr, who topped the women’s downhill and men’s downhill events in competition held in Laurel, Batangas.
Ms. Belgira had a time of 3:09.781 to win the gold in her event, ahead of second-running Tiara Andini Prastika of Indonesia (3:02.576). Vipavee Deekaballes of Thailand (3:17.607) took the bronze.
Mr. Farr, meanwhile, passed the finish line with a time of two minutes, 41.143 seconds, ahead of compatriot Eleazar Barba (1.360). Andy Prayoga of Indonesia came in third (2:47.868).
Pencak Silat delivered its maiden gold for the Philippines after Edmar Tacuel topped the men’s seni tunggal event at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.
Three more gold medals, meanwhile, were added by the men’s arnis team as of this writing.
Jesfer Huquire (men’s bantamweight division full contact — padded stick), Elmer Manlapas (men’s featherweight full contact — padded stick), and Carloyd Tejada (men’s padded stick welterweight) continued the impressive showing of the country’s arnis contingent.
GOLD FOR HIDILYN
Olympic weightlifting silver medallist and Asian Games gold medallist Hidilyn Diaz, meanwhile, bagged her first-ever SEA Games gold by topping the women’s 55-kilogram division weightlifting in competitions held at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Ms. Diaz lifted 91 kilograms in the snatch and 120 in the clean and jerk for a total of 211, eclipsing the 207 total points she had in the last Asian Games.
Also adding two gold medals are the Philippine 3×3 team, topping both the men’s and women’ divisions.
THE Philippine billiards team launches its medal quest in the 30th Southeast Asian Games today at the Manila Hotel Tent.
The host team’s men’s 9-ball pool doubles squad of Carlo Biado and Johannes Chua plunges into action at 10 a.m. followed by the men’s snooker doubles, men’s 1-cushion carom and women’s 10-ball pool singles.
Legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes competes in the men’s 1-cushion carom, out to surpass his bronze medal finishes in the 2011 Palembang, 2013 Myanmar and 2015 Singapore Games.
Ten ball makes its return since the 2013 Myanmar Games.
The Philippines is represented by Basil Hasan Al Shajjar, Rubilen Amit, Floriza Andal, Alvin Barbero, Chezka Centeno, Francisco Dela Cruz, Benjamin Guevarra Jr., Jeffrey Ignacio, Michael Angelo Mengorio, Dennis Orcollo, Iris Rañola, Jeffrey Roda and Luis Saberdo.