SINGAPORE — Nikko Huelgas won the men's triathlon on a rainy Sunday morning at East Coast Park to give the Philippines its second gold medal in the 28th Southeast Asian Games.
Huelgas bounced back big in the bike leg of the race, following a slow swim to check in at the finish line with a time of two hours, four minutes, and 32 seconds.
The winning mark of the Filipino was 1:03 ahead of Rikogoro Shinozuka of Malaysia, while Singapore’s Rong Loo Chuan took the bronze (2:07.01).
“It was spectacular, it was sweet and fulfilling,” said Huelgas.
Unlike in the women’s race where Claire Adorna and Kim Mangrobang posted a 1-2, the Philippines didn’t get a gold-silver finish in the men’s side as Jonard Saim of the Philippines wound up in sixth place, clocking 2:10.18.
But Huelgas noted that Saim played a huge role in his gold medal finish, helped him settle down in the bike leg after a very difficult start.
Huelgas, in his first SEA Games stint, came out of the 1.5-kilometer swim in fourth and felt dizzy at the transition but managed to shake it off.
“… without him, this would not be possible,” said Huelgas, a La Salle business management graduate.
“I was not really expecting anything (because) at the beginning I really had a bad swim. I went from T1 (swim) to T2 (bike) feeling dizzy,” he added. “That put me mentally down, and then I slipped in the first 100 meters of the bike.”
The 23-year-old raced back and finished the bike ride in second behind Thailand’s Wuthiwhat Hemwet then took the lead early in the 10-km run. Hemwet wound up in eighth place with a 2:12.33 clocking.
“It took me 10 years to achieve this. Years and years of trial and error, to be resilient and recover from your mistakes,” said Huelgas.
Up next for Huelgas, Mangrobang, Adorna and Saim is the Asian Triathlon Championships next weekend in Taiwan, where world ranking points are at stake.