Nikko Huelgas redeems self with Ironman win, makes case for SEA Games inclusion
CEBU Philippines—Nikko Huelgas proved that he remains a force to reckon with in the big stage.
Huelgas, a two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, emerged as the fastest Asian Elite in the Ironman 70.3 Philippines-Cebu—his first dabble in the triathlon brand—Sunday at Shangri-La Mactan.
Huelgas clocked in 4:24:56 in the 113-kilometer swim-bike-run course and even finished the race faster than Pros Eric Watson, Like Mckenzie, and Shen Yen Hsieh.
In a moment of pure unadulterated happiness, Huelgas let out the event’s loudest roar as he crossed the finish line.
“For me, this event solidified to the federation and to the spectators that I still have it and I can still improve and I can still take part with the contingent and represent our country,” said Huelgas.
After becoming a national sensation with his victory in Malaysia in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, Huelgas finished 16th in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
The poor performance he had in Indonesia sent Huelgas into a depressed state and even his victory in the Tri Factor Series Indonesia leg and seventh place finish in the Pro category of Challenge Vietnam wasn’t enough to give him the satisfaction he once felt in the SEA Games.
Huelgas is also unsure if the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (Trap) will include him as part of the country’s contingency in the 2019 SEA Games that will be held concurrently in Manila and Pampanga.
Coupled with an injury in his left hand after a biking accident in January that left him out of action for two months, Huelgas knew he had to bounce back in 2019.
“I had a bad 2018, a bad Asian Games performance and I got depressed after that because I didn’t get the result I need,” said Huelgas. “It’s embarrassing for the country to have that kind of performance wherein I know I could’ve been better.”
“I found out that there’s a possibility that I won’t be able to participate in the SEA Games, everything just exploded in me.”
Huelgas hopes he was able to make a strong case by winning in the Ironman 70.3 for him to be included in the Philippine team in the SEA Games.
“I know in myself that getting into the national team would be tough but hopefully they [Trap] will hear that I can still compete,” said Huelgas.