KUALA LUMPUR – Barring any miscue or last-minute disaster, the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (Trap) is poised to emerge with a pair of golden finishes in the 29th Southeast Asian Games.
Hopes are high on Nikko Bryan Huelgas and Claire Marie Adorna who will defend their respective crowns when the competition goes full blast at the Water Sports Complex here next Monday.
The buildup of Huelgas and Adorna was simply impressive.
After ruling the previous edition of the Games in Singapore, Huelgas dominated the ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships in Jakabaring Sports City in Palembang, Indonesia last July.
He clocked two hours and 50 seconds, five minutes better than his potential SEA Games foes in Indonesians Jauhari Johan of Indonesia (2:05:35) and Muhammad Ahlul Firman (2:05:57).
Adorna, on the other hand, is fresh from a one-month training in Phuket, Thailand. Although she suffered a mild hamstring that limited her performance in the Asian meet, her coach Melvin Fausto believes she’s already in fighting form and could easily defend her title.
“I’m expecting both of them to win gold medals,” said Trap president Tom Carrasco, the former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) chairman and member of the SEA Games task force.
“Wag lang madidisgrasya. Kumbaga sa boxing, wag lang mala-lucky punch. Otherwise, maganda ang chances natin na makakuha ng dalawang gintong medalya.”
Also tipped to make an impact are the country’s two other bets, Kim Mangrobang and John Chicano.
Mangrobang, who notched the silver medal in the women’s division in the previous biennial meet in Singapore, had a remarkable improvement.
In fact, she trained under the watchful eyes of Portuguese coach Sergio Santos in Portugal before finishing 19th out of 26 competitors in the 2017 Tiszaujvaros International Triathlon Union World Cup in Hungary.
She also ruled the distaff side of the prestigious ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships over her SEA Games rivals.
Chicano, meanwhile, is still training with Huelgas under Australian mentor Brett Sutton in Johor Bahru before taking a four-hour drive to this bustling Malaysian capital this Saturday.