Sprinters, strongman lead 5-gold PH charge

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SINGAPORE  -- Strongman Caleb Stuart smashed a meet record and Eric Shauwn Cray and Kayla Anise Richardson emerged the fastest man and woman as they presided over the Philippines’ five-gold surge on Tuesday, June 9, in the 28th Southeast Asian Games at National Stadium here.


Sharing the spotlight with the Filipino-American recruits were new billiards sensation Chezka Centeno and gymnast Reynald Capellan, who also ruled their respective events to propel the Philippines past Burma (Myanmar) in the medal standings with 12 golds, 17 silvers, 29 bronzes. The Burmese slid to seventh (10-16-18).

The host island nation continued its surprising dominance (52-43-54), outpacing traditional powerhouse Thailand (37-40-35), resurgent Vietnam (33-15-37), neighboring Malaysia (21-25-31) and former contender Indonesia (17-19-37).

Stuart, a hulking 6-foot-1, 250-pounder from Riverside, California, heaved 65.63 meters on his third hammer throw attempt to erase the SEA Games mark of 62.23 m posted by Thai Tantipong Phetchaiya in the 2013 Burma (Myanmar) edition and trigger the Philippines’ onslaught in medal-rich (42 golds) athletics.

12-gold target

Cray followed suit by clocking 10.52 seconds in the men’s 100-meter dash, which Richardson duplicated on the women’s side with a personal best 11.76 effort.

While Cray, a 5-foot-11, three-time All-American, handily won over Indonesians Yaspi Boby and Iwandi Iswandi, who both clocked 10.45, the 17-year-old Richardson barely scraped past Thai Tassaporn Wannakit, who also posted 11.76, in a photo finish.

Stuart will aim for a golden double Wednesday in shot put and, possibly, a golden treble in discus throw Thursday as athletics bolstered its chances of meeting its target of 8 to 12 golds here.

The 15-year-old Centeno upended two-time world champion and five-time SEA Games champion Rubilen Amit, 7-5, in an all-Filipino finale to bag the women’s 9-ball singles gold on her first stint in the biennial Games.

A prized find from Zamboanga City, where she developed her skills playing in their own pool hall near a vegetable market, Centeno surged to a 3-0 lead before allowing Amit to catch up at 4-4.

Centeno, the 2013 Philippine National Games (PNG) champion, kept her composure to thwart Amit, who described her as “heir apparent,” giving billiards its second gold medal.

Another discovery

Veteran internationalists Carlo Biado and Warren Kiamco captured the 9-ball men’s doubles title last Sunday, June 7.

Also contributing to the Philippine coffers was Capellan, another discovery from the PNG, who impressed the judges with his men’s artistic floor exercise routine to earn 14.733 points.

Capellan, 21, bested Singapore’s Hoe Wan Toon (14.566) and Vietnam’s Pham Phuoc Hung (14.500).

Reaping the benefits of rigid training under a Japanese coach, Capellan will also compete in men’s vault Wednesday.

Though Stuart came up short of his career best and national mark of 68.66 m, the University of California-Riverside stalwart said: “I’m happy, I did what I came here to do. I got the gold medal that I wanted.”

Phetchaiya settled for the silver (62.12) while Malaysian Jackie Siew Wong, who competed in the recent Philippine track and field national open held in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, garnered the bronze (61.18) at the expense of Filipino Arnel Ferrera (60.08).

Egged on by his mother Rowena and some relatives, Stuart overcame a faulty start, fouling the first throw by an inch, and missing the 60-meter line on the second.

Overeager to break his national record, Stuart fouled again on his fifth try.

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