PHI sweeps SEA Games triathlon events in Huelgas’ golden effort
Mark Escarlote on Jun 07, 2015 03:37 PM
It was spectacular. Talagang it was very sweet and fulfilling because I didn’t expect anything to happen like this --- Nikko Huelgas
SINGAPORE --- The Philippine triathlon team proved to be a goldmine as Nikko Bryan Huelgas pocketed the gold medal in the men’s division for the country’s sweep of the sport Sunday in the 28th Southeast Asian Games held at the East Coast Park here.
Huelgas bucked a slow start in his swimming and a minor misstep in the bike ride to clock in at 2:04:32 as heavy morning downpour added another challenge to the grueling race.
The 23-year-old Huelgas crossed the finish line 1:03 ahead of Malaysian Rikigoro Shinozuka (2:05:35) and had a distance of 2:29 from bronze medalist Chuan Rong Loo (2:07:01) of host Singapore.
“It was spectacular. Talagang it was very sweet and fulfilling because I didn’t expect anything to happen like this,” said Huelgas, the first Pinoy to win a SEA Games triathlon gold medal.
Huelgas was lagging in fourth place after the 1.5 km. open water swim up and was still behind in the bike race before making up for lost ground in the footrace to duplicate the gold medal feat of Claire Adorna in the women’s division Saturday.
The De La Salle business management student, who struggled with jetlag and sleeplessness going leading to his campaign, said that it was an agonizing race and he was just running on instinct the whole time.
“Because at the beginning I was having a really bad swim, I was feeling bad. And immediately when I went to T1 (swim) I was really feeling dizzy, that pulled me down mentally a bit and then it pulled me down mentally again because I slipped on the first 100 meters on the bike,” Huelgas said.
He also credited teammate Jonard Saim, who finished sixth with a time of 2:10:18 and faded in the race adter losing his vital nutrition pack during the bike event, for aiding him on the bike race.
“I had to adjust everything. I had to use my instinct so from there I just slowed down on the bike with Jonard. Without him this wouldn’t be possible,” Huelgas added.
Huelgas caught up with erstwhile frontrunner Thai Wuthiwat Hemwet, who finished eighth (2:12:33), in the first loop of the 10-kilometer run and eventually took the win to add the PHI second gold.
“(I got the win) from my patience. It took me 10 years in the making to be able to achieve this feat. Years and years of trial and error. It’s not by talent, it’s not by luck, it’s all by instinct and talent. And you have to be resilient to be able to recover from your mistakes and you need a support group to make that happen and prayers,” Huelgas said.
Overall, the PHI finished with two gold medals and a silver courtesy of women’s triathlete Kim Mangrobang.
Watch the full interview here:
Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Tom Carrasco, who is also the Triathlon of Association of the Philippines president, said that success of his athletes “is the result of a two-year journey in identifying who our athletes to prepare for the SEA Games and prepare and fund them well.”
“We were able to identify Huelgas, Mangrobang, Adorna and Saim as our SEAG hopefuls so sent them for intensive training overseas,” said Carrasco, who thanked the Philippine Sports Commission for the supporting the buildup of Huelgas and Mangrobang at the elite training camp in Rio Maior, Portugal.
On the other hand, Saim and Adorna were sponsored by pharmaceutical company for their serious training in Australia.
All four triathletes will be competing in the Asian Triathlon Championships next weekend in Taiwan, he added, to earn world ranking points.
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