SUBIC. — From sidekick to runner-up, and now, the top.
John Chicano completed his rise on Sunday to the apex of the Southeast Asian Games men’s triathlon, leading a 1-2 finish with teammate Kim Remolino at the Subic Baywalk course inside the Subic Freeport Zone here.
Living up to his promise, Chicano, 28, pulled away in the first three kilometers of the 10K run in winning the country’s first gold medal in the 30th edition of the 11-nation sports spectacle.
Born in Olongapo, Chicano clocked a personal best and SEA Games record-breaking time of 1:53.26 seconds, eclipsing old mark of 1:59.30 set by Nikko Huelgas when he won his second straight men’s triathlon title two years ago in Malaysia.
Andrew Kim Remolino, who led the opening 1.5K swim leg, bagged the silver in 1:55.02 while Indonesian Mohammad Ahlul Firman settled for the bronze in 1:57.10.
Hours later, defending women’s champion Kim Mangrobang, 28, and Kim Kilgroe made it a double celebration for Filipinos, finishing 1-2 in runaway fashion in the distaff side.
Mangrobang drifted behind Kilgroe in the 40K bike and took over in the run leg to post a winning time of 2:02.00. Kilgroe clocked 2:05.02 while Indonesia’s Octaria Nehtavani took the bronze in 2:16.33.
“Di ko masabi ang kaligayahang nararamdam ko. Iba talaga,” said Chicano, who won his first SEA Games gold medal.
“We were aiming for a time of 1:55 but he did better than that. I’m proud because he also set a new SEA Games record,” said men’s triathlon coach Melvin Fausto.
“Dedicated ko po ito sa aking pamilya, sa aking anak na si Lira at sa aming magiging bagong anak,” Chicano said as his 10-year-old daughter quietly sidled beside him while being interviewed.
“Okay lang po na mag-second lang ako kay kuya Rambo, basta sino lang sa amin ang makakuha ng gold,” Remolino, 19, who made his SEA Games debut coming from the junior ranks.
The victory was vindication for the perseverance and hard work of Chicano, who has been with the national team for the last 10 years.
In the 2015 Singapore Games, he sacrificed himself to protect the pace-setting Huelgas, who was fighting cramps, from his rivals and failed to make it to the podium.
Two years ago in Malaysia, Chicano was content to play second fiddle to Huelgas anew, but there was no denying him the third time around on his home ground. Huelgas failed to qualify for these games.
Among those who watched Chicano cross the finish line first was Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator and chair Wilma Eisma, also an Olongapo native.
“I’m just teary-eyed because I am from Olongapo and Rambo is from Olongapo and he gave our country the first gold medal in the SEA Games,” Eisma said, adding SBMA will give its local hero a cash bonus.
Chicano and Mangrobang are guaranteed P600,000 each in incentives: P300,000 from the new incentives law and P300,000 from the Philippine Olympic Committee.