Filipinos in a big hurry

Filipinos in a big hurry
The Philippines’ Kayla Richardson (right) celebrating her women’s 100m triumph with compatriot Princess Griffey, who finished fifth at the 28th SEA Games athletics events held at the National Stadium on 9 June 2015.

Just like their winning sprinters, the Philippines athletics team were fast out of the blocks at the newly-laid out National Stadium track and field yesterday.

They clinched three high-profile golds - including both 100m sprints - on the first day of track and field events after the National Stadium rolled out its lay-and-play pitch upon the completion of the SEA Games opening ceremony last Friday.

The first gold medallist emerged at around 10.30am, when the Philippines' Caleb Stuart clinched the men's hammer throw title with a Games-record 65.63m.

While the Philippine team celebrated that victory, their joy doubled in the evening when the 100m races took centre-stage before a modest crowd of 12,324.

First up was the men's 100m final, and the powerfully-built Eric Shauwn Cray flew out of the blocks, opening up a big lead as he clinched his country's second gold of the day in a personal-best time of 10.25sec. Indonesians Boby Yaspi and Iswandi both timed 10.45 to take silver and bronze.

To cap a superb day for the Filipinos, 17-year-old Kayla Richardson emerged triumphant in the women's 100m race with a time of 11.76sec.

She pipped Thailand's Tassaporn Wannakit to the gold after a photo finish, with Singapore's Shanti Pereira (11.88) taking the bronze.

Both were rare golds for the Philippines. Richardson became the first Filipina to win the women's 100m since Elma Muros took gold in the 1995 Chiang Mai Games.

Cray is believed to be the first Filipino to win the men's blue-riband race since the Philippines started participating in the Games in 1977.

Said Richardson: "Nothing's guaranteed, I was not expecting the gold. I did not want to put too much pressure on myself, I just wanted to go out there and have fun."

Stuart marked his Games debut with a performance that suggested that he could obliterate more Games records in the future.

His winning throw was way further than the old record of 62.23m, set in 2013 by Thai Tantipong Phetchaiya.

Despite clearly dominating the field, Stuart felt that he should have done better.

The 24-year-old has now set his sights on beating his personal best of 17.88m in the men's shot put today - a result which would trump the 17.54m needed to secure gold in 2013.

Said Stuart: "My goal is to reach world-class level, and I am not there yet.

"I want to win a medal at the Asian Games and to move on to the Olympics in the future."

With her country off to a blistering start, Richardson believes it indicates they have the potential to become an athletics force in the coming years.

"The Philippines is coming up," she said. And, after the golds they bagged yesterday, not many would beg to differ.

This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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