SEA Games: PH nets 2nd gold as Huelgas rules men’s triathlon
SINGAPORE—Nikko Huelgas had felt the full weight of pressure since his high-performance training recently in Portugal.
The 23-year-old shed off the heavy load Sunday, grabbing another gold medal for the Philippines through men’s triathlon in the 28th Southeast Asian Games here.
“I couldn’t sleep lately because of the fear and anxiety,’’ said Huelgas, the co-architect of the Filipinos’ golden sweep in the punishing swim-bike-run event.
Claire Adorna claimed the first victory for the country in these Games through women’s triathlon Saturday.
“When I arrived from training (in Portugal), I experienced jet lag for the first time. I couldn’t sleep in the evening. At one time, I only had like 15 minutes of sleep that forced me to consume melatonin just to calm myself,’’ said the good-looking Huelgas, whose girl friend Laura cheered him on the sidelines.
“I felt that I’m the most pressured athlete in the competition.’’
It hardly showed on the rain-drenched course at the East Coast Park here.
Behind the pace by 28 seconds out of the water, the Marketing graduate from La Salle tumbled in the bike sequence 100 meters from the first transition due to the slippery route before pouring it all in the run finale.
Huelgas, on his debut in the SEA Games, clocked two hours, four minutes and 32 seconds, over a minute faster than Malaysian-Japanese Rikigoro Shinozuka (2:05:35) while Singapore’s Loo Chuan Rong placed third (2:07:01).
“In the beginning, I really had a bad swim and felt dizzy in the first transition that pulled me down mentally,’’ said Huelgas, the most vocal athlete representative in the Philippine Olympic Committee Athletes Commission.
“But I adjusted everything. It was spectacular, sweet and fulfilling. I didn’t expect for this to happen.
Jonard Saim, who got the top billing owing to his 10th-place finish in the Incheon Asian Games, faded in the run segment and dropped to sixth overall (2:10:18).
According to coach George Vilog, the prized find from General Santos City lost his nutrition gel pack intended to boost his energy from the bike part until the end.
But Huelgas had Saim to thank for, especially in the crucial stretches on the bike.
“He helped me out. It was team work,’’ said Huelgas.
“For me, this is not an individual sport today. Without him, I won’t be able to do it.’’
Huelgas, 11th placer in the Asiad last year, lost six kilos while training in Desmor, Portugal for three months with silver medalist Kim Mangrobang while Saim, the No.1 triathlete back home, went to Gold Coast, Australia with Adorna.