MANILA — A day after the country celebrated National Heroes Day, the search for new sports heroes of the nation, and the region as well, begins in earnest on Sunday as action in the 30th Philippine SEA Games finally goes full blast.
After the pomp and pageantry of the inaugural rites of the SEA Games held in Bocaue, Bulacan last Saturday night, a slew of sports will be bidding to deliver the country’s first gold medal in the regional sportsfest, hoping to spark the Filipino campaigners’ bid in regaining the overall crown they last held in the 2005 PH SEA Games.
That distinction could easily belong to triathlon as the Pinoy bets seek to complete another golden double in sweeping the men’s and women’s events early Sunday morning at the Subic Bay Boardwalk inside the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
With back-to-back SEA Games men’s triathlon champion Nikko Huelgas gone, the focus on the men’s event starting at 6 a.m. will be the local duel between John Chicano, a silver medalist in the 2017 Malaysia SEAG, and Cebuano wunderkind Kim Remolino, who finished No. 17 ASTC Triathlon Cup held in Gyeongyu, South Korea last June.
Olympic hopeful Kim Mangrobang, who has been training in Europe, is the top favorite in retaining her women’s title with compatriot Kim Kilgroe emerging as her main rival for the gold in the event unfolding at 8 a.m.
Mangrobang and Kilgroe finished seventh and ninth, respectively, in the 2018 Asian Games, with just one minute and 47 seconds separating the two elite triathletes.
It is not far-fetched that the Philippine standard-bearers could complete a 1-2 finish in both men’s and women’s divisions.
Also starting off early and hoping to produce the country’s opening-day mints are the cyclists in the men’s and women’s mountain bike downhill races in Laurel, Batangas featuring Eleazar Barba and John Derrick Farr in the first race while Lea Denise Belgira and Naomi Gardoce are vying on the distaff side.
The national polo team will be bidding to make history as it battles Malaysia for the gold in the 4-6 high goal event Sunday afternoon at the Miguel Romero field in Calatagan, Batangas.
Expecting to make his SEA Games golden debut is world men’s floor exercise gymnastics champion Carlos Edriel Yulo, who is the hand’s down choice to rule the all-around event in men’s artistic gymnastics, at the newly-renovated Rizal Memorial Coliseum Sunday evening.
The Olympic-bound Yulo, who has been training in Tokyo for over the past three years under Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, is tipped to gobble up majority of the seven golds up for grabs in his division.
Hoping to make their golden contribution once again in the country’s SEAG overall championship campaign after an absence of 14 years are the Pinoy arnis exponents, who all loom as strong contenders in the eight golds at stake in the live stick event.
To be held at the modern Angeles University Foundation gym in Angeles, Pampanga, vying in the men’s division are Dexter Bolambao (men’s below-55 kilograms), Nino Talledo (men’s 55-60 kg), Villardo Cunamay (men’s above 60 kg) and Mike Banares (men’s above 65-kg.), according to head coach Richard Gialogo.
The women’s arnis standard-bearers are Jezebel Morcillo (below 60 kg), Jude Rodriguez (50-55 kg.), Eza Rai Yalong (55-60 kg.) and Erl Busacay (above 60), Gialogo added. (PR)