SEAG SPRINT QUEEN! Filipino-American Kayla Richardson celebrates with her family during the awarding ceremony. (PSC Photo)
HANOI – Fil-American Kayla Richardson regained the 100m dash crown she won in 2015 as a teenager as the Philippines held off a spirited challenge by Indonesia for third overall Wednesday in the 31st Southeast Asian Games here.
Richardson’s victory in the century dash at dusk came after the women’s archery team of Abby Bidaure and sister Pia, along with Phoebe Amistoso, bagged the team recurves title at the Hanoi National Training Center and Johann Chua emerged as the new singles 9-ball billiards king at the Ha Dong District Sporting Hall.
Now 26, Richardson emerged as the 100m queen of the 2015 Singapore games, but somehow faded into the backseat when she yielded the spotlight to Kristina Knott in recent years.
Knott became the darling of Philippine athletics in 2019 when she won two gold medals in the 4×100 mixed relay and the 200 meters. But Knott, who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, had to skip the games here due to plantar fasciitis in her foot, leaving the spotlight to teammates Kayla and Kyla Richardson.
Despite the lean three-gold haul, one less than the country’s production last Tuesday, the Philippine contingent backed by the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission, whose chairman, William Ramirez celebrated his 72nd birthday Wednesday, remained in third place – but barely.
Overall, the Philippines raised its gold tally to 37 with 48 silver and 64 bronze medals. Indonesia had a 36-48-47 tally for fourth, followed by Singapore (35-37-44).
Host Vietnam was unreachable with a haul of 122-75-72, its grip on the overall title won by the Philippines back in 2019 so solid with just six days left in the biennial competition.
Filipino athletes also bagged five silver medals, three of them in taekwondo and one in table tennis, plus 10 bronze medals, including one won by karateka Jamie Lim, one of the darlings of the 2019 national team, who lost her crown in the minus 61kg category of kumite.
A slow starter, Richardson picked up the pace halfway through the 100-meter race and held steady to the finish, clocking 11.6 seconds to master an 8-runner field that included 200-m queen Shanti Pereira of Singapore, who clocked 11.62 seconds to bag the silver. Thailand’s Supanich Poolkerd placed third in 11.66 seconds.
Kayla, a bronze medalist in the 200 meters three days ago, proved a worthy successor to Knott.
“I can’t complain. I’m so grateful. It took me a lot to get here. I thank God for getting me here,” a teary-eyed Richardson said after sharing a sweet embrace with sister and fellow national athlete Kyla and father Jeff.
Richardson only placed second in the heats with a 12.02 time, but it was a ploy to reserve strength for the race that mattered most.
“I was just chillin,” Richardson said with a laugh. “I was just trying to get to the finals.”
Abby Bidaure, 20, competing in her second SEA Games, emerged as the heroine for Team Philippines, hitting the bullseye in the final arrow of a shoot-off for a 10 with just 10 seconds left on the clock, leading the team to a clinching 26-25 win over the host squad.
The Hawkeyes battled back with a 57-49 win in the fourth frame after trailing 1-2 in the first three, forcing a shoot-off that came down to Abby’s winning shot.
Chua, 29, pounced on two stunning miscues by reigning US Open champion Carlo Biado en route to a 9-6 victory and crowned himself the new 9-ball billiards champion here.
The 9-ball gold was the second for Pinoy cue artists here, with Rubilen Amit winning the women’s side of the event last Tuesday, beating Jessica Chan of Singapore 7-2, for her ninth gold medal in the biennial event.
Biado was favored to rule the all-Filipino finals but uncharacteristically missed easy shots on the 12th and 15th racks, to the horror of the big crowd at the Ha Dong District Sporting Hall.
Trailing 5-6 in the 12th, Biado, 39, failed to pocket the 9-ball, smiling after his miscue. He also failed to sink the 8-ball three racks later, with Chua gamely taking over both times to win his first SEA Games gold.
Biado, who failed in his bid to reclaim the title he won in the 2017 Games, raised the hand of Chua after the match, gamely accepting his defeat for the silver medal.
Gilas Pilipinas expectedly whipped Singapore 88-37 at the Than Tri Gymnasium for its third straight win while the Gilas women trounced rival Thailand 97-81 for its second straight triumph.
Teen tennis sensation Alex Eala beat Malaysian Jo Leen Saw in straight sets at the Hanata Tu Son courts in Bac Ninh and also advanced to the semifinals of the mixed doubles in tandem with Treat Huey.
“Won my very first ever SEA Games mixed doubles match. Thanks partner, Treat Huey! Also won my singles match today and moved to the semifinals. Laban PH!” the 16-year-old Eala exclaimed in her Facebook post.
But Pinoy taekwondo fighters got shut out for the gold, with Vietnam winning five of the gold medals disputed and Myanmar and Indonesia taking one each.
The women’s football team failed in its bid to reach the gold medal play, losing 0-3 to Thailand, and will face the loser of the Vietnam-Myanmar battle for the bronze.