SUBIC, PHILIPPINES – For much of the triathlon races held on Sunday morning, two yellow suits led the charge from start to end.
As dawn broke in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, the home crowd came out in droves to cheer on their athletes. The Filipinos have dominated the sport since its return to the SEA Games programme in 2015, and the locals weren’t about to miss a chance to bask in the national anthem during the prize presentation.
John Chicano and Kim Remolino were the first pair to send the home crowd into a frenzy as they never let up their lead from the bike leg. Then, Kim Mangrobang and Kim Kilgroe put on an even bigger show of dominance as they proceeded to gap the field by 10 minutes by the end.
“I’m really, really happy right now, but I really need to focus for tomorrow’s race (the triathlon mixed relay). We want to win there also,” said Mangrobang with a laugh. The triathlon mixed relay debuts in the SEA Games after appearing in the Youth Olympic Games and the Asian Games.
Mangrobang trains mostly in Portugal under Sergio Santos, which left her with just two weeks to acclimatize. But that didn’t stop her from executing her plan to “swim hard, bike hard, and run really, really fast”, even though pre-race anxiety affected her sleep the night before.
“I know a lot of Filipinos were going to watch here, so I was really nervous. But it’s finished, so I can sleep now!” she said.
Chicano, the runner-up in the 2015 and 2017 Games, was primed to have a fiery matchup against countryman Remolino, who trains in Cebu. Based on his credentials, Chicano would have been primed as the one to beat, but the teenage Remolino had handily beaten him throughout the season.
Chicano used his losses against Remolino as motivation leading up to the biggest dance of the year. Attributing his losses to mechanical issues and lack of training, Chicano believed he had more left in the tank.
Emerging fourth from the swim, Chicano was just twenty seconds back from leader Remolino and he quickly closed the gap on the bike leg. The pair proceeded to break away with Indonesian Muhammad Ahlul Firman, the eventual bronze medalist.
It was on the third lap of the run that Chicano laid the hammer down. Remolino never responded, and Chicano enjoyed the final stretch, signalling happily at national teammate Nikko Huelgas and coming through the finish arch with a national flag draped around his shoulders.
“I’ve been thinking about the gold for the past few weeks,” said Chicano, 28. “To get the gold for the Philippines, I’m very happy.”
In recent months, Chicano trained at the New Clark City sports complex, which includes a pool and a stadium in close proximity. It has been a perfect venue for brick training sessions, a staple for multisport athletes. Now he can save money and time from searching out brick-friendly training sites overseas.
Chicano will anchor the Philippines triathlon mixed relay team tomorrow when he teams up with fellow champion Mangrobang, Claire Adorna and Fer Cesares. Though his training has been primarily geared towards the standard distance, he is counting on his speed sessions to bring him through the shorter format.
“I heard some of the guys from Singapore are very strong, so we’re looking forward to that,” said Chicano with a smile.
Another thing Chicano is looking forward to is the gender reveal of his second child, who is six months along. He is undecided on whether he’s throwing a big party for that, but he does know that he’ll be seeing more of his family post-SEA Games. Then it’s back to Tokyo 2020 qualification.
Singaporeans Clement Chow (1:57:10) and Wille Loo (2:00:15) finished fourth and fifth respectively; Ethel Lin (2:18:08) and Chang Shu Wen (2:33:54) came in fourth and tenth respectively.
The individual duathlon and triathlon mixed relay are scheduled for Monday morning (0600 M/0820 F) and afternoon (1530) respectively.
Individual results (male)
1st John Leerams Chicano (PHI) – 1:53:26
2nd Andrew Kim Remolino (PHI) – 1:55:03
3rd Muhammad Ahlul Firman (IND) – 1:57:10
Individual results (female)
1st Kim Mangrobang (PHI) – 2:02:00
2nd Kim Kilgroe (PHI) – 2:05:02
3rd Nethavani Octaria (IND) – 2:16:33