Casugay: From lifesaver to flag-bearer

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    WINNER: Roger Casugay displays the gold he won in the longboard competition.
    WINNER: Roger Casugay displays the gold he won in the longboard competition.

    IT pays to be a man for others.

    Roger Casugay, a virtual unknown in the sporting world outside the surfing community, became the man of the hour in the 30th Southeast Asian Games when he threw his chances for the gold to save his Indonesian rival from an impending tragedy.

    Casugay, 25, helped Indon Arip Nurhidayat after the latter broke his ankle leash and was swept by giant waves at Monaliza Point in San Juan, La Union Friday last week.

    The heroic act cost Casugay the gold medal. He, however, hit paydirt when he won the gold medal in the longboard open event against fellow Filipino Rogelio Esquivel on Sunday.

    But his selfless act of helping others seemed more popular than his gold-medal feat.

    “These Games are not only about medals. It is about character, resilience, love for one another and shoring up the faith of the person next to you, something that Casugay has exemplified,” Philippine Sports Commission chair Butch Ramirez. Ramirez said Monday that Casugay will be the country’s flag-bearer in the closing ceremonies of the games at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

    Casugay will get his financial bonanza and is expected to pay a courtesy call on President Duterte after the SEA Games.

    “The SEA Games awakened the bayanihan spirit and volunteerism among us. The very spirit shown by the heroism of Roger who gave up his chance for a golden finish to save an opponent at risk of losing his life to the very waves they play in,” said Ramirez. “Truly a class act, a solid show of the Filipino spirit.”

    Even Indonesian President Joko Widodo praised the Filipino surfer.

    But while everybody’s lauding him as a hero, the La Union native stressed that he isn’t a hero.

    “I’m no hero. He’s (Nurhidayat) a good swimmer, I just calmed him down,” said Casugay.

    Casugay ruled the men’s longboard class with 4.50 points, relegating local rival Rogelio Esquivel Jr. (14.20) to the silver medal.

    Joining Casugay in the list of Filipino surfing gold medalists was Nilbie Blancada, who topped the women’s shortboard open  (7.15) while Thailand’s Tita Flynn Anisa settled for silver (6.35) in the sport that made its SEA Games debut.

    Indonesia’s Hairil Anwar clinched the gold medal in the men’s shortboard event (12.90), beating compatriot Rio Waida (10.40).