SEA Games: Filipino runner who lost everything wins gold

SEA Games: Filipino runner who lost everything wins gold
Julius Nierras (right), who ran the third leg in the Philippines' victorious 4x400m quartet, says he had to run fast to show his federation that he deserves a new contract. The allowances that he will be paid will come in handy in helping his family rebuild their lives after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed their farm.

The Myanmar SEA Games were to be Filipino 4x400m runner Julius Nierras' swan song.

In an ideal world, the gold he won on Thursday was to have signalled the beginning of a life away from the track, on his family's farm on Biliran Island near Tacloban City.

But when Typhoon Haiyan struck his hometown last month, his dreams dissipated in a matter of two hours.

Nierras, 32, was training in Manila, putting in the final preparations ahead of the Myanmar SEA Games, when the deadly typhoon, which has claimed at least 6,000 lives, hit.

As inhabitants of the typhoon-swept island fled, the runner packed his bags and headed straight for the disaster area.

Electricity was cut in Biliran, and with no form of communication available, but Nierras needed to know if his family was safe.

He still remembers the sight that awaited him.

"Everything was destroyed. Everything was gone," he said, his voice quivering as he recalled what he saw that day.

"I can't even imagine that something like that could happen to our house, our land, our rice fields."

The roof was blown off the family home while the wooden walls and pillars had crumbled.

And all 200sq m of their rice crops and coconut trees were destroyed.

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