KUALA LUMPUR: The unheralded duo of Trenten Beram and Aries Toledo proudly raised the Philippine flag in Day 2 of the 29th Southeast Asian Games athletics competition at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil Wednesday night.
Rookies in the 11-nation regional sports showcase, the Filipino-American Beram and Toledo stamped their class in the men’s 200-meter run and men’s decathlon, respectively, boosting the haul of the country’s athletic campaigners to four mints.
Long-distance runner Mary Joy Tabal ruled the women’s marathon and Eric Shawn Cray retained his men’s 400-meter hurdles title earlier for the national squad’s first two gold medals.
First on the winner’s podium was Toledo, a former sprinter who bested 2015 Singapore SEA Game silver medalist Jeson Ramil Cid to earn his spot here, humbling 2014 Incheon Asian Games decathlon king Suttisak Singkon in topping the grueling discipline with 6,894 points.
Trailing Singkon by nine points entering the 10th and final leg, the dusky Filipino decathlete raced ahead of everyone else in the four-man finals, handily topping the men’s 1,500-meter run in four minutes and 39.80 seconds.
This was more than enough time Toledo needed in overhauling the tall and lumbering Thai, who checked in third in the run in 5:10.53 behind Vietnam’s Bui Van Su (4:54.06) and settled for the silver (6,678). Su took the bronze (6,207).
“Nananalangin po ako sa itaas na huwag po akong bumigay kasi sa javelin (throw, the ninth event) pa lang sumasakakit na yong buong katawan ko,” said Toledo, who was virtually wrapped all over his body with tape.
“Sabi ko po sa sarili ko: para ito sa bayan, para ito sa bayan kaya di ako dapat magpatalo.”
Living up to his top seeding in the heats, Beram rocketed in the final 100-meters and left the field, including Malaysian century dash champion Khairul Hafiz Jantan, to win the men’s 200-meter race in a new national record of 20.84 seconds.
Jantan, whose left thigh was heavily bandaged, did not even medal and placed fourth (21.28) behind compatriot and bronze medalist Thevarr Gunnesaran in 21.26 seconds.
“This feels great because this is my first SEA Games. I am only 21 so this is only the beginning,” said Beram, who reset his own national mark of 20.96 seconds in last month’s Asian championships in Bhupaneswar, India
“I was really just being myself so winning the gold was a bonus. I knew that I was coming in as a rookie, nobody knows me so it is good to put my name out there,” added the University of Connecticut mathematics student, whose mom hails from Cebu, of his golden SEA Games debut.
Beram, however, will hardly have little time to celebrate as he returns to the track on Thursday for the men’s 400-meter run.
The accomplishments and Toledo and Beram offset the disappointing finish of highly-fancied Fil-Am Kayla Richardson, who struggled in fifth place (24.29) behind Vietnamese gold medalist Le Tu Chinh (23.22).
Richardson, who skipped the women’s 100-meter run where she was in Singapore two years ago, was even bested by Zion Richardson, who placed fourth in 24.26.
“Too much wear and tear,” said Richardson, a University of Southern Califorinia freshman and athletic scholar, said tersely in explaining her woeful form. “Any way, there is still the 4×100 relay on Friday.”
Sharing the night’s honors were Harry Diones and Marco Vilog, who bagged silvers in the men’s triple jump (16.83 meters) and the men’s 400-meter run (1:49.41).