GAINESVILLE, Georgia—As the Philippine flag courageously fluttered in the breeze, Ojay Fuentes and Hermie Macaranas proudly sang the country’s national anthem with the team one last time.
It was the culmination of a dazzling show that saw Filipino paddlers emerge as overall champions in the senior division of the 2018 ICF World Dragon Boat Championships.
Fuentes and Macaranas paddled in all five races that the Philippines won, punctuated by a gold-medal effort in the 10-seater senior men’s 200m event on Sunday (Monday in Manila) at Lake Lanier Olympic Park here.
“This is a special moment for us, this is for the country,” said Fuentes.
“Even our rivals are proud of our accomplishment,” added Macaranas as the Hungarians and Italians exchanged high fives with members of the Philippine team during the awarding ceremony.
Quickly gliding on water using short but powerful strokes, the Philippines crossed the line in 47.39 seconds to defeat Italy, which clocked 49.58 seconds for the silver medal.
Hungary, a consistent title contender, checked in third, almost three seconds behind the Filipinos.
With five gold and two silver medals, the nationals erased the previous record of five golds and one silver the country accomplished in 2012 in Milan, Italy.
The golden output also allowed the Philippines to recover its bearings from an Asian Games defeat that left the team emotionally frustrated.
“I felt vindicated,” said Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragon Boat Federation president Jonne Go. “Here, we were able to show what the team is really capable of achieving.”
Indonesian organizers in the Asian Games last month used heavier boats with a deeper hull, far different from the regular boats during races sanctioned by the International Canoe Federation.
Coach Len Escollante expressed her gratitude to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., Philippine Sports Commission and Go For Gold, the private benefactor of the women’s team that won four senior mixed events in the small and big boat category in both 200m and 500m distances.
Macaranas and Fuentes were joined on the 200m podium by Mark Jhon Frias John Lester Delos Santos, Oliver Manaig, Reymart Nevado, Lee Robin Santos, Jordan De Guia, Roger Masbate, John Paul Selencio, drummer Patricia Bustamante and steerer Maribeth Caranto.
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