Led by world gymnastics’ champion Carlos Yulo, the Philippines was off to a flying start by bagging 18 gold medals Sunday evening, winning in triathlon, dancesports, sepak takraw, arnis and gymnastics to put muscle into its campaign for the overall championship of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
So dominant were the hosts on many fronts, that their gold-silver-bronze harvest of 18-8-4 (30 medals) as of 7 p.m. was 14 mints ahead of the the second-running 4-10-7 of Vietnam.
John Chicano started the ball rolling as early as 6 a.m. as he delivered the first gold for the Philippines by ruling the men’s triathlon event at the Subic Bay Boardwalk in Zambales.
Two hours later, defending women’s triathlon champion Kim Mangrobang made it a golden double for the hosts, with the celebration spilling into the boardwalk just hours after a spectacular opening ceremony at the Philippine Arena on Saturday.
Chicano, who finished second to countryman Nikko Huelgas in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, clocked 1:53.26 to win his first SEA Games medal, leading a 1-2 finish by Filipinos.
Andrew Kim Remolino bagged the silver medal in 1:55:03, with Muhammad Ahlul Firman of Indonesia settling for the bronze medal in 1:57:10. Mangrobang also led a 1-2 finish by local bets in the distaff side, clocking 2:02.00. Her teammate Kim Kilgroe finished second in 2:05.02, while Octaria Nechtavani of Indonesia salvaged the bronze in 2:16.33
READ: Triathlon delivers first golds for Philippines
“I’m overjoyed. I still can’t believe I did it. The Indonesian was really strong, he stayed with us all the way,” said Chicano, a native of Olongapo City.
Remolino, a SEA Games’ first-timer just coming off the junior ranks, was also overjoyed, saying: “I’m really happy. Coming from the juniors, making my games debut and winning a silver. It’s a bonus that we managed to defend the gold and silver.”
Dancesports gave the country five golds, including three from the pair of Sean Mischa Aranar and Ana Leonila Nualla, who ruled the Tango, Viennese Waltz and Five Dance events.
Mark Jayson Gayon and May Joy Renigen then grabbed the mint in the Standard Waltz and Slow Foxtrot, before settling for silver in quickstep.
The Filipino bets were still competing in the breakdance and Latin events at Royce Hotel in Clark, Pampanga later in the day.
Meanwhile, the Philippine sepak takraw team completed a twin kill in the hoop event to kick off its campaign in style before a packed crowd at the Subic Gymnasium.
Buoyed by the women’s breakthrough triumph earlier, the Filipino sepak takraw bets did not disappoint with a big follow-up victory as the hosts started strong on their four-gold medal bid in the biennial meet rolling off until Dec. 11.
Mentored by Rodolfo Eco, the Jason Huerte-led squad registered 670 points against Laos’ 430 to create a big cushion that Cambodia never got to erase.
During the 30-minute event for each team to score points into the high-arching hoops, Cambodia recovered from a slow start to manage 450 points, bumping off Laos for the silver medal.
Composed of Janjan Bobier, Metodio Sueco, Emmanuel Escote, John Jeffrey Morcellos and Christian George Encabo, the nationals seek to continue their gold-medal hunt when they compete in the centerpiece event regu, team double and team regu starting today at the same venue.
Earlier in the women’s division, the playing coach Deseree Autor-led team also posted similar 670 points to cap off an escape act against Indonesia (660 points).
Myanmar, the silver medalist in the 2017 regional contest held in Kuala Lumpur and a perennial sepak takraw powerhouse, heated up late but ran out of time for 640 points.
Indonesia and Myanmar settled for silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Autor was joined by teammates Josefina Maat, Sara Jean Kalalo, Mary Ann Lopez, Jean Marie Sucalit and Abigail Sinugbohan who will also be out to display another dazzling performance in the women’s regu event starting today.
The nationals are eyeing three to four gold medals in the six-event sepak takraw to claim the overall championship at home after a fifth-place finish with two silver and bronze medals two years ago in Malaysia.
Wushu queen Agatha Wong of the Philippines proved a class over the rest, retaining the gold medal in the taolu taijiquan event at the World Trade Center in Manila.
READ: Agatha rules taolu taijiquan
Wong, who performed fifth in the order of play, was spectacular among all the nine entries, registering 9.67 to handily win the gold.
Lachkar Basma of Brunei won the silver with 9.55 points while Tran Thi Minh Huyen of Vietnam scored had 9.53 for the bronze medal.
“There was no holiday for us (in our training) so we are very fatigued right now. My body is aching. I was relieved after I finished my first event. I just did my best and I hope that’s enough for team Philippines,” said Wong.
Wong also ruled the event in the 2017 Games in Kuala Lumpur and won a bronze in the 2018 Indonesia Asian Games in Jakarta.
She is set to compete in the women’s taijijian event on Dec. 3. Loh Choon How of Malaysia topped the taijiquan event with 9.68 points, with Zheng Yu Hosea Wong of Brunei bagging the silver with 9.59 points. Daniel Parantac of the Philippines settled for the bronze medal with 9.56 points.
Yulo, the Philippines’ brightest prospect for a first-ever gold medal in the Olympic Games, came good as advertised, as he rolled his way with a golden performance in the individual all-around category in the men’s artistic gymnastics of the games before a big Sunday crowd at the Rizal Memorial Coluseum.
Yulo did not disappoint the pro-Filipino weekend crowd who watched him live for the first time, as he tallied 84.900 in the six routines to beat Dinh Phuong Thanh of Vietnam (82.350) with plenty to spare for the gold medal.
READ: Yulo takes all-around gold in men’s gymnastics
The bronze medal went to another Vietnamese, Le Thanh Tung, who finished with an 81.700 score.
With his historic win at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championship early this year that earned him a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Yulo was ahead of the pack in the floor exercise by collecting a 14.650 score to top Dinh’s 13.900.
In the pommel horse, the 19-year-old Yulo was also impressive with a 13.600 score before settling for second in the still rings also at 13.600.
Yulo received 14.550 for second place in the vaults, while his performance in the parallel bars got him a 14.400 score.
Yulo’s top two finishes in each of the routines earned him a finals stint in all of the six apparatus, thus enabling him to gun for a sweep in the men’s artistic gymnastics, where seven golds are at stake.
The women take center stage on Monday with the start of the artistic gymnastics competitions also at the Rizal Coliseum.
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