TRIATHLON NATIONAL TEAM
THE BIRTH OF REGIONAL POWERHOUSE
When the triathlon made its return to the South East Asian Games (SEAG) after an eight-year absence in the biennial event, the Philippines emerged as the sport’s regional power, bagging golds in both the men’s and women’s triathlon event, while also getting the silver in the women’s meet.
Three-time national triathlon champion Nikko Huelgas reigned supreme in the men’s individual event, finishing with a top time of 2:04:32; Claire Adorna got the country’s first gold medal in the 28th SEAG the day before in the women’s event, while 23-year-old Kim Mangrobang crossed the finish line just a minute and 18 seconds after Adorna’s gold-winning mark.
“It took us three years of consistent training and hard work to get to the SEA Games level,” shares Huelgas. “It’s an endurance sport, which demands a lot of muscle memory. In the last stretch [of preparations], our three-month camp in Portugal prior to the race is the one that gave us a big help in getting into our highest level and being able to win the medal,” he says.
Huelgas also credits the Triathlon Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Sports Commission for the Philippine team’s success.
Three years may have been the time it took to get the triathletes to the elite level, but Huelgas, Adorna, and Mangrobang admit that their winning moments are shaped by a lifetime of discipline and sacrifice.
The swimmer-turned-triathlete Adorna attest to this saying, “We have to be away from our families, away from home, and in my case I even had to file for a leave of absence [from school] so I could focus more on the sport. Being away from your family, it tests your mentality and forces you to toughen up.”
In the women’s event, Mangrobang epitomized what sacrifice and team is all about, slowing down the pace during the race’s bike leg to enable Adorna to gain a substantial lead going into the final stage.
“Kailangan ‘yun para sa team,” was how Mangrobang, who has been a member of the national team since she was 14, succinctly describes the tactical move.
While triathlon as a sport has undoubtedly seen an influx of enthusiasts in recent years, having the likes of Huelgas, Adorna, and Mangrobang as inspirational figures further bolsters interest in the field.
“To those who want to get into the sport, just believe and put your heart in it. Dream and strive to be someone great. Just keep ‘TRI-ing,’” Adorna says.