The Philippines continued their dominant streak in the triathlon as they swept both the men’s and women’s titles once again at the SEA Games triathlon on Monday morning at the Putrajaya Water Sport Complex, Malaysia.

Nikko Huelgas, the 2015 champion, defended his title as he completed the 1.5-kilometre swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run course in 1 hour 59 minutes 30 seconds. Fellow Filipino John Chicano was the next man to cross the line as he stopped the clock at 2:01:27, bringing the Philippines to a 1-2 finish.

The Philippine women also earned a 1-2 finish as Kim Mangrobang (2:11:14) sped away from 2015 champion Claire Adorna (2:18:58) during the run leg to become the 2017 champion.

There was a shift in the men’s ranks as Singaporean Clement Chow, who took two months of no-pay leave to train for the Games, snuck onto the podium to claim his first SEA Games medal ahead of fellow countryman and 2015 bronze medalist Wille Loo. While Chow and Loo were still together at the first transition, the former stayed on Huelgas to pull ahead during the first lap of the bike leg. Chow exited the second transition in second place.

However, Chicano caught a tiring Chow midway through the 10 km course and continued to increase his lead. Chow was left to tough it out alone as he struggled to keep his medal hopes alive. He eventually clinched the bronze in 2:03:24, ahead of Loo’s 2:04:33.

Clement Chow (right) sticks close to back-to-back triathlon champion Nikko Huelgas. Chow exited the bike leg 2nd during the 2017 SEA Games and eventually won a bronze medal.

In the women’s race, Singaporeans Christy Suriadi and Denise Chia stuck together through the swim and bike elements as they fed off each other’s energy to narrow the gap on the rest of the field. They weren’t the only ones with the same idea – Filipinas Mangrobang and Adorna, and Malaysians Irene Chong and Zoe Bowden came through the first transition side by side as well.

Over the course of the cycling leg, Chong and Bowden increased their 3-minute advantage to 6, but both appeared to be extremely fatigued by the time they entered the last element as Suriadi mowed down a slowing Bowden to move up to fourth.

Malaysians Irene Chong and Zoe Bowden stick together in the bike portion at the 2017 SEA Games.

At the final lap, Suriadi seemed to be within striking distance of a medal, with only 3 minutes separating her from third place Chong. Though the Malaysian was visibly fatigued throughout the running portion, Chong had the home crowd support. Additionally, seeing a bouncy Suriadi as she rounded the final U-turn was enough motivation for Chong to drive her legs and maintain the gap to ensure a medal for the host.

While the medalists are seasoned triathletes, junior athletes Suriadi, Bowden and Chia are new faces in the SEA Games field. None of them are older than 20.

“I was nervous but also really excited for my debut SEA games,” said Suriadi, 20. “Denise and I had to constantly remind ourselves that we were actually competing in the SEA games because it was so surreal.”

Despite a “tough start” – Suriadi fell behind the chase pack and lost her swim cap right at the start – she was excited about placing fourth at one of the biggest regional competitions.

“It was such an amazing experience to be a part of the high-energy atmosphere and racing with the best of Southeast Asia,” she said.

Singaporeans Christy Suriadi (right) and Denise Chia (left) run together during the first lap at the 2017 SEA Games.

View the full results.