TOP Filipino triathlete Nikko Huelgas, a third placer in his last two races, hopes to grab the gold this time as top favorite in the elite male field of the Tri United this Sunday at Playa Laiya in San Juan, Batangas.
Challenging Huelgas in the punishing 2K swim-60K bike-15K run event starting at 6 a.m. are Augusto Benedicto, Philip Atento, Dan Brown and Benjamin Rana.
Kim Mangrobang, the former national youth star who now stands among the best local female racers, also faces a tough challenge against former national champions Ani Brown and Sandra Gonzalez.
Huelgas battled flu last week but still wound up third in a 5150 triathlon event in Subic, just weeks after copping the bronze in the Philippine National Games.
The race’s teen division will also serve as a qualifier for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) where five favored bets are fighting for the remaining Philippine berths.
Bidding to join Magali Echauz in the YOG are Kate Lagman and Vicky Deldeo in the girls’ division, while Jimwell Patilan, Louie Lalanto and Justin Chiongbian are disputing the boys’ slots.
In the team competition long distance division, PLDT-Bike King tries to defend its crown versus Army Navy South Tri, Century Tuna Tri Hard, Fitness First, Grantrail-24.7, among others. Jasmine W. Payo