TAGUM City, Davao - Karen Manayon flashed a big, genuine smile when she faced a handful of reporters inside the media room of the Sports and Tourism Complex here on Monday.
She couldn't even do that hours earlier as she almost saw the gold medal slip from her grasp at the end of the girls 13-15 triathlon following a protest that led to a penalty.
The 14-year-old triathlete from Cebu province forgot to leave her head cap and goggles when she made the transition from swim to bike, prompting officials to slap her with a 20-second penalty.
Thankfully, she she finished four seconds ahead of Everly Janirie Macalalad even with the deduction.
She finished the race in 40 minutes and 16 seconds, while Macalalad (40:20) and Nicole Eijansantos (40:49) wound up second and third, respectively.
"Malungkot pero di ako nawalan ng pagasa kasi alam ko na ako mananalo. Kita naman ng lahat na ako yung first sa finish line," said Manayon, who finished 10th in last year's edition of the competition in Cebu.
Manayon, who broke loose in the run part of the race, noted that it was a learning for her because if she hadn't established a bigger lead, her effort would have gone for naught.
"Learning experience po for me," said the Grade 8 student of Kalisay City Science High School, who is set to compete for gold again in the duathlon and road race.