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Obstacle racing sparks gold rush for Team PH

PHNOM PENH – Team Philippines formally opened its 32nd Southeast Asian Games campaign on Saturday with a world record in obstacle racing, gold medals in karate, jiu-jitsu and aquathlon, and impressive triumphs in boxing and 3×3 men’s basketball to brandish a productive day it hopes to sustain all the way to the finish.

Obstacle course racers set the tone of the rewarding opener as fitness model Princess Cabuya delivered a world record for the second time in three days after she and Mark Julius Rodelas, nephew of the athletic legend Elma Muros, clinched a gold medal each in the OCR finals.

Cabuya conquered the 100-meter women’s individual action in 32.732 seconds, almost three seconds in front of teammate and eventual silver medalist Kaiza de la Cerna.

GOLD! Mark Julius Rodelas celebrates after bagging a gold medal in the obstacle course race finals. 

Three days ago, the 32-year-old Cabuya reached the finals after topping the second heat with a world record-smashing 33.127 seconds.

“This is my biggest achievement so far, an unforgettable experience as this was my first SEA Games and won a gold right away. I’m so happy I contributed a gold medal to our country and recorded a new time (world standard),” said Cabuya, after receiving her medals from Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard Bachmann.

Rodelas exuded a more laid back stance as he took the other gold medal in 25.1939 seconds against Pascua, who yielded the crown after clocking 26.8135 in a thrilling finale in the 100-meter men’s individual event.

“Relax lang kami kasi dahil Pilipino pa rin ang kukuha ng ginto dito,” said Rodelas, who gave up his teaching job at Quirino High School in Pandacan, Manila to pursue his dreams as an athlete.

Philippine Obstacle Sports Federation president Al Agra confirmed the record-breaking feat of Cabuya.

Meanwhile, Fil-Japanese Sakura Alforte opened the country’s bid in the three-day karate event by bagging the women’s individual kata gold, Annie Ramirez delivered a second gold in jiu jitsu and the mixed relay team in aquathlon composed of Matthew Justine Hermosa, Inaki Emil Lorbes, Kira Ellis and Erika Nicole Burgos scored a big triumph just before dusk set in.

Those five victories came after Jenna Kaila Napolis delivered the Philippines’ first gold in jiu-jitsu on Wednesday and Angel Gwen Derla scored a surprising, but welcome triumph in the ancient Cambodian martial of kun-bokator last Thursday.

As of 8:30 (Philippine time), Filipinos have amassed a total of 7 gold, 7 silver and 10 bronze medals, good for second overall behind the host squad that will go into action Sunday with an 11-8-6 mark.

The Gilas Pilipinas and Gilas women 3×3 squads advanced to the semifinals, a day before the Gilas 5-on-5 team arrives here.

The men’s team of Almond Vosotros, Lervin Flores, Joseph Eriobu, and Joseph Sedurifa swept the group stage with victories over Laos, 21-5; Vietnam, 21-13; and Indonesia, 21-11, in Group A while women’s squad of Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, and Mikka Cacho stumbled in the first game with a 21-19 defeat to Vietnam, but bounced back in Group A against Laos, 21-6, and reigning champion Thailand, 14-8.

In boxing, Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Carlo Paalam, Olympian Irish Magno and debuting Paul Julyfer Bascon crushed their foes at the Chroy Changvar Center Hall G in Cambodia.

Paalam mauled his Cambodian foe Sao Rangsey and came away with a unanimous 5-0 decision, highlighted by three knockdowns in the third round of their men’s bantamweight preliminary round bout.

“I didn’t feel any pressure at all during the fight because I knew I was controlling the whole bout with my explosive jabs,” said Paalam, the Asian Boxing Confederation Men’s Elite Boxing Championships bantamweight gold medalist last year in Jordan.

Paalam, 24, faces Malaysian Daeloniel McDelon in the quarterfinals on Monday.

Magno, meanwhile, is now assured of a bronze medal after a 5-0 unanimous shutout of Nan A Mwe Hom of Myanmar during their quarterfinal women’s bantamweight battle.

She will advance to the semifinals and face either Indonesian or Singaporean foe.

Bascon also scored a 5-0 unanimous decision victory over Myanmar’s Aung Soe Moe in the preliminary round of their light welterweight bout. — Reira U. Mallari

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