Hanoi—World gymnastics champion Carlos Yulo put himself in the conversation as the 31st SEA Games’ Best Male Athlete after an electrifying show that raised his golden total to five, fueling another frenzied assault by a Philippine team now engaged in a dog fight with Thailand for second place.
Showing that he is indeed a cut above the competition here, Yulo dominated the vault, where he is reigning world champion, before adding a surprise gold medal in the horizontal bars.
Yulo not only eclipsed his 2-gold feat in the 2019 Philippine SEA Games with his fifth title here, he also earned a crack at becoming the Best Male Athlete in the games, while leading a 10-gold rush by the Philippines on Monday—the Filipinos’ most productive yet.
The Tokyo Olympian thrilled an appreciative crowd at the Quan Ngua Sports Palace with an emphatic victory in the vault where he scored 14.700 points before weaving his magic in the horizontal bars, where his 13.867 tied for first with Din Phuong Thanh of Vietnam.
Counting his earlier wins in the men’s all-around, floor exercise, and rings, on top of silver medal finishes in the men’s team event and parallel bars, Yulo, who stands to receive P1.8 million in bonuses for his feats, matched the five-gold haul of a forgotten gymnastics sports hero in Rolando Albuera, who achieved the feat in the Jakarta 1979 SEA Games where the Philippines collected a total of 24 gold medals and finished fourth overall.
Artistic gymnastics contributed 7 gold medals, 4 silvers, and one bronze to the Philippine campaign here, the best finish by Filipino gymnasts in memory.
The other two gold medals were contributed by Fil-Am Aleah Finnegan in the women’s team and vault while adding a silver medal in the balance beam, losing to Malaysia’s Rachel Yeoh Li Wen (12.567-12.467).
Also contributing to the Philippines’ cause was dancesport, which delivered four gold medals after being limited to one last Sunday, bowler Merwin Tan who ruled the men’s singles and ended an 11-year golden drought by the keglers, 110-meter hurdler Clinton Kingston Bautista and swimmer Chloe Isleta in the 200-meter backstroke, which was not yet recorded in the medal standings.
The Philippines has 30 golds at third, five behind Thailand at 8 p.m., with host Vietnam safely entrenched at the top with 86 golds.
Tan, a 22-year-old left-hander, came from behind to rule the men’s singles event at the Royal City Hanoi Bowling Lanes, rolling a six-bagger in the sixth and last frame to beat Yannaphon Larpapharat of Thailand and Ryan Leonard Lalisang of Indonesia.
Tan finished with a total score of 1292, his bid immensely helped by a 294 in the sixth frame after scoring 234 in the fifth frame that bumped him up to No. 3 overall. Larpapharat and Lalisang were relegated to silver and bronze, respectively, with scores of 1286 and 1221.
In other results, Gilas Pilipinas eliminated the first legitimate threat to its title-retention bid as it turned back Thailand, 76-73, at the start of the men’s basketball at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium.
The Philippine women’s basketball team had a more dominant win earlier, a 93-77 thumping of Indonesia.
Billiards great Efren “Bata” Reyes, still a big hit with Vietnamese fans, advanced to the semifinals of the men’s one-cushion carom singles, beating Suriya Suwannasingh of Thailand 65-58.