Athletics delivers again » Manila Bulletin Sports

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Members of the Philippine 4x100 teams pose during the awarding ceremony in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Back row from left: Archand Bagsit, Eric Cray, Anthony Beram and Anfernee Lopena, while front row from left: Kayla  Anise Richardson, Eloiza Luzon, Kyla Richardson and Zion Rose Nelson. (Ali Vicoy/Canon)

Members of the Philippine 4×100 teams pose during the awarding ceremony in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Back row from left: Archand Bagsit, Eric Cray, Anthony Beram and Anfernee Lopena, while front row from left: Kayla Anise Richardson, Eloiza Luzon, Kyla Richardson and Zion Rose Nelson. (Ali Vicoy/Canon)

by Rey Bancod

KUALA LUMPUR – The Philippines matched its gold medal output two years ago in Singapore at the close of the athletics competition of the 29th Southeast Asian Games Saturday.

Fil-American Trenten Anthony Beram, who won the gold medal in the 200 and 400 meters, and decathlon winner Aries Toledo provided the biggest surprises for the team that had its share of disappointments.

The athletics team brought home 5 golds, 3 silvers and 10 bronzes.

Popoy Juico, president of the Philippine Track and Field Association (PATAFA), said they were satisfied with the athletes’ performance considering the injury suffered by pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the schedule that forced Fil-American Eric Cray to run two events with only an hour in between.

“We will continue and strengthen our development programs with an eye to the Asian Games in 2018, the SEA Games in 2019 and Tokyo Olympics in 2020,” Juico said in a statement.

Beram, a 21-year-old product of University of Connecticut, became the first Filipino to win the 200 meters in the Games, setting a new national record in the process with a time of 20.84 seconds.

He came back a day later to add the 400 meters to his collection, crushing the field in 46.39 seconds.

While his clockings won’t be enough to put him in the podium in the Asian Games, Beram has time on his side to become one of the country’s greatest runners.

“He’s the future,” said Eric Cray whose own bid for a track double was stymied by a punishing schedule.

Cray barely held on to win the men’s 400-meter hurdles in 50.03 seconds, a far cry from his national record of 48.98 seconds.

The 28-year-old hurdler may have tried to conserve for the century dash set an hour later, a gamble that nearly cost him the gold.

Quach Cong Lich of Vietnam, who Cray beat two years ago, came charging at the end to force a photo finish. He lost by .02 of a second.

However, Cray had nothing left for the 100 meters as he settled for the silver in 10.43 seconds, a shade slower than Malaysian Khairul Hafiz Jantan who did 10.38 seconds.

Cray won the event two years ago in Singapore in 10.25 seconds.

Beram and Cray teamed up with Anfernee Lopena and Archand Christian Bagsit in the 4 x 100-meter relay, but could only place third behind Vietnam and Malaysia. They consoled themselves with a new national record of 39.11 seconds.

Running for the third straight day, Beram said he could have won it for the team if not for the pain he felt on his left thigh.

Dr. Ferdinand Brawner, head of the medical team, said the “cellophane” that wraps the thigh muscle has a tear and advised Beram to take a rest and undergo therapy.

“It usually heals in two weeks with proper rest and therapy,” said Brawner.

Cray’s foot injury is more complex and needs further examination at home, according to Brawner.

Without Beram and Cray, the country’s bid in the 4 x 400-meter run in the final day was doomed.

The quartet of Edgardo Alejan Jr, Michael Carlo del Prado, Bagsit and Toledo finished third in 3:08.42, nearly two seconds off the 32-year-old PH record.

Thailand won the event in 3:07.25 with Vietnam in second place in 3:07.40.

Toledo, who made his Games debut, was another revelation.

The 27-year-old former sprinter stunned Asian champion Suttisak Singkon in the decathlon, collecting 6,894 points as opposed to the Thai’s 6678.

Although the holder of the national record of 7127, Toledo still has a long way to go to be a serious contender in the Asian level.

The other gold medalist was marathoner Mary Joy Tabal whose overseas training paid off.

Marco Vilog and Mark Harry Diones won silvers in the men’s 800 meters and men’s high jump, respectively.

The other bronze medallists were Evalyn Palabrica, women’s javelin throw; Mervin Guarte, 1,500 meters; Arniel Ferrera, men’s hammer throw; women’s 4 x 100-meter team of Zion Rose Nelson, Kayla Richardson, Kyla Richardson and Eloiza Luzon, Marestella Torres-Sunang, women’s long jump; and Melvin Calano, men’s javelin throw.

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