Carlos Yulo, EJ Obiena log SEA Games ‘three-peat’
They flew into Cambodia with an air of invincibility. And on Monday, against outclassed foes in the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Carlos Yulo and EJ Obiena showed just how unbeatable they were.
Yulo won the men’s all-around for the third straight edition of the regional meet, the first of only four golds that he will be allowed to win, based on the new rules instituted by organizers of the Cambodia hosting.
And it hardly mattered that he had to cram in preparation for the meet.
“I only had two weeks to prepare and complete all the things that I need to accomplish,’’ Yulo said after greasing his path to the gold with peerless performances in the vault and parallel bars—which have become his favorite of late—and a dominating stint in the floor exercise, which he ruled in the 2019 world championships.
In a seamless stint interrupted only by rain, Obiena left his foes biting dust before the weather pressed pause on the action.
When play resumed, Obiena went after his old record in the biennial meet and successfully rewrote it—thrice.
The Olympian pole vaulter cleared 5.65 meters for the gold, adjusting the 5.46-m standard he set in last year’s Hanoi Games. Recuperating from a left foot injury he suffered last week, the 27-year-old Obiena first cleared 5.55 m and 5.60 m.
“It’s not my first time to compete in the rain. We don’t like it, but it happens,’’ said Obiena, whose performance came as a prelude to a long outdoor season during which he will try to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Obiena was initially unhappy with the timing of the stoppage of play, which came after he cleared 5.40 m. But that only gave the world No. 3 vaulter even more motivation.
“I made 5.40 on my second and technically, normally they should have jumped the second attempt in the same conditions,” he said. “[But] they stopped, that’s fine with me. It could be a tactic, but I didn’t like it. It worked for me, I needed something to make me go a little bit more.”
For Yulo, what proved crucial was a decision to return to Manila from his training base in Japan before flying to Phnom Penh.
“The weather is cold in Japan, so when I returned home (in Manila) I gradually got acclimatized,’’ said Yulo, who was unbothered by the warm weather in the Cambodian capital.
In front of a big crowd at National Olympic Stadium, Yulo scored 15.000 in the vault, the apparatus that made him a world champion in 2021, and 14.950 in the parallel bars.
Yulo also came up with a powerful routine in the floor exercise to collect 14.350 points from the judges.
He compiled 84.000 overall, way ahead of silver medalist Thanh Tung Le (80.450) and bronze finisher Phuong Thanh Dinh (78.150), both from Vietnam.
Yulo will again take the mat on Tuesday in the finals of the individual apparatuses.
SEA Games rules prohibit athletes from winning more than four gold medals, a restriction that doesn’t apply to the bets of the host country.
In other SEA Games events, Xiandi Chua gave the country’s swimming team its first gold after spearheading a 1-2 finish by Filipinos in the women’s backstroke finals.
Chua finished in two minutes and 13.20 seconds at Morodok Aquatic Center to beat teammate and defending champion Chloe Isleta (2:16.19) for the gold-silver feat of the PH team.
A little sauce
Chua added a little sauce to her victory, resetting the SEA Games standard in the event after breaking the 2:13.64 swim of Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, which the Vietnamese accomplished during the 2017 edition of the Games in Malaysia.
Cambodia won yet another gold at the expense of the Philippines when naturalized triathlete Margot Garabedian, originally from France, ended Kim Mangrobang’s three-edition reign in the women’s side of the event.
Garabedian finished in one hour, five minutes and 34.2 seconds while Mangrobang checked in nearly two minutes (1:07:24) later.
Fernando Casares eased the pain of Mangrobang’s failed title-retention effort with a gold medal in men’s side.
The Filipino-Spanish defending champion finished in 58 minutes and 32 seconds, making up for a bungled medal attempt in men’s duathlon on Sunday.
Indonesia’s Rashif Amila Yaqin wound up with the silver medal in 58:45.
Cebuano Andrew Kim Remolino, a back-to-back SEA Games silver medalist in the event, placed third in 59:53.
Team Philippines plucked a gold medal in esports with a 3-1 victory over Vietnam in the League of Legends: Wild Rift event.
The mixed team of Aaron Mark Bingay, Chammy Paul Nazarrea, Golden Hart Dajao, Justine Ritchie Tan and Reniel Angara won three out of their four games to clinch the title.