Capas, Tarlac—The Philippines’ track and field stars Ernest John Obiena and Kristina Knott delivered golden finishes and put on a record-breaking show before a roaring crowd of 5,000 in the 30th Southeast Asian Games athletics competitions at the New Clark City track stadium here Saturday.
The Tokyo Olympics-bound Obiena ended a two-year wait when he broke a two-year-old SEAG men’s pole vault record after clearing 5.45 meters.
In taking the gold, Obiena eclipsed the 5.35-meter mark Thai rival Porranot Purahong made during the 2017 SEA Games.
Purahong settled for the silver at 5.20 meters, while Iskandar Alwi of Malaysia took the bronze with a 5-meter performance.
Obiena was already a favorite for the pole vault gold two years ago, but an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury a few days before to the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games forced him to miss the biennial meet.
On the other hand, Knott broke the SEA Games’ 200-meter mark twice in less than a day, first in the heats, which she topped with a blistering pace of 23.07 seconds to shatter the 18-year-old record of Thailand’s Khawpeag Supavadee, whose 23.3-second feat was achieved way back in 2001.
In the 200-meter finals later in the day, the Fil-American Knott was even faster, submitting a 23.01-second time to leave her rivals in her trail, including defending champion and Vietnam’s “Queen of Speed” Thu Chinh Le.
Seeking the gold in the absence of injured 2017 champion Zaidatul Zulkifli of Malaysia, Le settled for the silver in 23.45 seconds. Singaporean Veronica Shanti Perreira was the bronze medallist for a second straight time at 23.77 seconds, slower than the 23.68 she recorded two years ago in Kuala Lumpur.
The 24-year-old Knott wanted to hit the Olympic qualifying standard of 22.8 seconds, but her coach Roshan Griffin told her to take it easy, taking away the pressure that was on her shoulders since she started preparing.
“I wasn’t going after anybody else. I was going after the Olympic standard. I did not hit it. But, at least I got a gold out of it,” said Knott, who hails from Orlando, Florida before moving to Pasig City last year.
Knott’s fiery pace also took down the 23.16-second Philippine record that Zion Corrales-Nelson set in the US NCAA West Preliminary meet in Sacramento, California last May 25.
Track legend Lydia De Vega-Mercado used to hold the national record of 23.35 seconds for 37 years until Corrales-Nelson and Knott erased it this year.
With the feats of Obiena and Knott, the Philippines kept its firm grip on the SEA Games’ overall lead with 85 golds, up by 14 from the previous day. The hosts also have 63 silvers and 64 bronzes for a total of 212 medals.
Indonesia remained at second place with a gold-silver-bronze tally of 50-48-53, while Vietnam is still at third with 42-48-61. Thailand overtook Singapore (37-30-41) at fourth spot with 39-52-57.
Gymnast Daniela dela Pisa—an ovarian cancer survivor—kicked off the productive day for the Philippines.
Dela Pisa scored 17.750 in her routine to clinch the gold in the hoop category of the gymnastics competition, her third and most impressive medal in the games, to go with two bronzes from the ball and clubs categories.
She beat Malaysia’s Amzan Izzah (16.500) and Kwan Amy Dict Weg (15.900), who got the silver and bronze, respectively.
Following Dela Pisa’s feat, Quezon pride Cris Nievarez and the tandem of Joane Delgaco and Melcah Caballero hit paydirt as the Philippine rowing team got off to a sizzling start at the ACEA Bay here.
Hailing from a family in the seaside town of Atimonan, Quezon, Nievarez gave the country its first gold medal on Day 7 after ruling the men’s lightweight single sculls, a day after he topped the time trials. He clocked in at 7:34.27, besting Thailand’s Siripong Chaiwichitchonkul (7:35.01) for the gold.
“I didn’t expect to win the gold but the Lord guided me to victory. I am also motivated by my desire to help my family,’’ said the 19-year-old Nievarez, a first-timer in the biennial Games.
Nievarez said he will use his financial incentives to help his two siblings and mother.
Bicol standouts Delgaco and Caballero combined to rule the women’s lightweight double sculls with a time of 7:24.21.
The Philippines also got off to a hot start in the taekwondo competitions at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Rodolfo Reyes Jr. scored 8.349 to win the gold in the male recognized poomsae individual event, relegating Thailand’s Sengmueabg Pattarapong to the silver with 8.199, while Myanmar’s Shine Sun finished with 7.849 to settle for the bronze medal.
Jocel Lyn Ninobla made it a double celebration for the host team, edging Thailand’s Srisahakit Ornawee by a hair for the women’s poomsae recognized individual gold.
Ninobla scored 8.433 while Ornawee finished a close second with 8.432. Vietnam’s Le Tran Im Uyen settled for the bronze with 8.149.
The taekwondo trio of Dustin Jacob Mella, Rafael Enrico Mella, and Reyes, Jr. then captured the Poomsae Team event gold later in the day.
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