SINGAPORE - Nico Huelgas sparked a five-gold medal haul by Team Philippines on Sunday as the country finally made significant strides in its campaign in the 28th Southeast Asian Games here.
Huelgas began the day for the Filipinos on a bright note despite rains falling on this hot and humid city state, winning the gold in men’s race for a sweep of the triathlon gold medals following the win of Claire Adorna in the distaff side.
The national contingent sustained what Huelgas began by scooping four more golds later in the day to help the country stay in seventh place in the medal standings.
Others contributing to the Philippine haul which sports officials hope would breach the 40-gold tally were Daniel Parantac in wushu, Kiyomi Watanabe in judo, Warren Kiamco and Carlo Biado in billiards and the Volcanoes in rugby sevens.
Two potential golds, however, slipped from the country’s grip following the loss of men’s foil and women’s epee teams late Sunday night in their respective finals.
Huelgas could only placed fourth after the 1.5-kilometer swim race, but made up for lost time in the bike and run legs to win the event in two hours, 34 minutes, and 32 seconds.
He won the event by 1:03 over Malaysia’s Rikogoro Shinozuka (2:05.35).
Parantac, like Huelgas and Adorna a veteran of the Incheon Asian Games, bagged the first gold for wushu by topping the men’s tajijian at the Expo Hall.
The Filipino squeezed out of a tight three-man contest with a dynamic display of grace and precision to finish with a total of 9.71 points. He edged Malaysia’s Jack Chang Lang Loh (9.69) and Indonesia’s Julius Karnawan (9.68) for the gold.
It was the second medal for the 25-year-old athlete, who bagged a silver medal in the same event in the 2014 Asiad, following the silver he won in the men’s team double-weapons with Norlenc Catolico and John Keithley Chan late Saturday.
The Volcanoes, meanwhile, accomplished their mission of bringing home the gold by routing Malaysia, 24-7, in Sunday’s finals at the Choa Chu King Stadium, reinforcing their reputation as the best rugby sevens squad in the region.
The Filipinos swept the five-game eliminations and were still in their sharpest form when they beat the Malaysians, who they blanked, 14-0, earlier in the day.
The gold was an improvement from the silver medal the team won when the event made its debut in the biennial meet in Nakhon Ratchasima eight years ago.
Watanabe defeated Thailand’s Orapin Senatham by ippon for the country’s lone gold medal in judo, where the country bagged two bronze medals earlier in the Games.
Host Singapore continued to pile up more golds on Sunday by frustrating the Philippines, 45-40, in the men’s foil team for the host’s third mint in the event.
Vietnam also beat the Philippines, 45-28, in the women’s team epee finals to stamp its class in fencing by winning the most number of golds with seven, to add to its two silver and one bronze medals.
The women’s rugby team showed vast potential by clinching the bronze medal with a 22-0 rout of Malaysia. Thailand shut out Singapore, 39-0, in the gold-medal match also on Sunday.
Mary Joy Tabal contributed a silver medal in women’s marathon, enough to save the country’s campaign in athletics on Sunday after the disappointing performance of former gold medal winner Eduardo Buenavista, who could only finish fourth in the men’s side due to a bum stomach.
Tabal, 25, clocked three hours, three minutes and 25 seconds to finish second behind Thailand’s Nattaya Thannaronnawat (3:04.39). Vietnam’s Thi Thanh Hoang (3:07.14) took the bronze.
Buenavista, the 2009 Laos Games gold medalist, clocked 2:39.26 to finish behind Singapore’s Rui Yong Guillame Soh (2:34.56), Thailand’s Boonthung Srisung (2:34.56), and Vietnam’s Nguyen Thanh Hoang (2:37.10).
In shooting, Mar Udan, Jerome Morales and Lamberto Espiritu settled for the bronzel in men’s precision pistol.
The women’s team of Rachelle Arellano, Ma. Christina Onofre, Elizabeth Leduc, Ava Lorein Verdeflor and Sofia Isabel Gonzalez also bagged the bronze in artistic gymnastics.
Three bronzes were scooped out of the OCBC Aquatics Center on Sunday courtesy of Joshua Hall (men’s 100, breaststroke), Roxanne Ashley Yu (women’s 200m backstroke), and Jasmine Alkhaldi (women’s 50m butterfly).