PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – An obstacle racer with a championship pedigree and a comely fitness model sparked a five-gold haul by the Philippines Saturday even as host Cambodia kept its hold on the early medal lead in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games here.
Competing in the obstacle course 100m event before a big crowd at the Chroy Changvar Convention Center Car Park, Mark Julian Rodelas, 35, a nephew of athletics great Elma Muros Posadas, topped the men’s individual class while Precious Cabuya made her SEA Games debut doubly memorable by ruling the women’s division.
Sakura Alforte opened the country’s bid in the three-day karate event by bagging the women’s individual kata gold, Annie Ramirez delivered a second gold in jiu jitsu and the mixed relay team in aquathlon composed of Matthew Justine Hermosa,
Inaki Emil Lorbes, Kira Ellis and Erika Nicole Burgos scored a big triumph just before dusk set in.
Those five victories came after Jenna Kaila Napolis delivered the Philippines’ first gold in jiu-jitsu and Angel Gwen Derla scored a surprising but welcome triumph in the ancient Cambodian martial of kun-bokator last Thursday.
A day after the formal opening ceremonies of the games being hosted for the first time by Cambodia, the Philippines has amassed a total of 7 golds, a silver and bronze, good for second overall behind the host squad that will go into action Sunday with an 11-8-6 mark.
One of the heart-breakers for the day was the silver medal finish of Junna Tsukii in karate that left the Fil-Japanese perplexed, convinced that she was the clear winner over Malaysian Chandran Shamalarani, who was proclaimed the winner by a 2-3 decision in the individual female -50kg kumite.
“I cannot understand the judges and the referee, why they gave the decision to her. I was really surprised with the decision. I’m sorry, this is not the color of the medal that we wanted but that’s it,” said Tsukii, 31, the 2022 Birmingham World Games gold medalist.
The Gilas Pilipinas and Gilas women 3×3 squads advanced to the semifinals, a day before the Gilas 5-on-5 team arrives here.
The men’s team of Almond Vosotros, Lervin Flores, Joseph Eriobu, and Joseph Sedurifa swept the group stage with victories over Laos, 21-5; Vietnam, 21-13; and Indonesia, 21-11, in Group A while women’s squad of Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, and Mikka Cacho stumbled in the first game with a 21-19 defeat to Vietnam but bounced back in Group A against Laos, 21-6, and reigning champion Thailand, 14-8.
Three swimmers – Jerard Jacinto, Thanya dela Cruz, and Jarod Hatch – advanced to the finals being held at press time.
With Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard Bachmann and Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino in the crowd watching, Rodelas dethroned 2019 champion Kevin Pascua in an all-Filipino duel, clocking 25.1939 seconds against the latter’s 26.8135.
Cabuya clocked 32.7317 in the women’s finals, relegating compatriot Kaizen dela Serna, who timed 35.5218, to second.
Like it did in Vietnam last year, triathlon and other events under its wings, in this case mixed relay team aquathlon, produced an early gold for Filipinos, courtesy of Hermosa, Lorbes, Ellis, and Burgos.
The four clocked a combined one hour, nine minutes and 57 seconds in the 500m swim and 2.5km run event, easily winning over an Indonesian squad that clocked 1:11.28 and Vietnam, which settled for third in 1:13.321.
Rodelas, whose father Mario is the second cousin of Elma, a 15-time SEA Games champion in the long jump, sprint, and heptathlon, won a bronze in his initial foray in the sport in 2019 when the games were held in the Philippines.
Looking to stamp his mark, he quit his job as a high school English teacher and, for the next four years, “I really trained hard to reach a higher level.”
The mixed relay team’s victory in aquathlon came on the heels of Andre Kim Remolino’s silver medal finish in men’s aquathlon earlier in the day in the seaside town of Kep, 167 kilometers away from here.
Remolino clocked 15 minutes and seven seconds in the 500m swim and 2.5k run sprint event in the town of Kep, 167 kilometers from here, with Indonesian Rashif Yaqin winning in 14:28.
Cambodia’s naturalized entry, Margot Marabedian, topped the women’s side in 16:09 and loomed as the biggest threat to the title-retention bid of Filipina Kim Mangrobang, 31, who will seek to annex her fourth straight title in women’s triathlon on Monday.
Marabedian, 27, is a former French triathlete, one of three naturalized athletes Cambodia is fielding here.