Teacher turned athlete scoops obstacle-race gold in Cambodia
A former school teacher toasted the power of "positive vibes" on Saturday after conquering the 100m obstacle race, as Philippine athletes stamped their authority on one of the most distinctive events at the Southeast Asian Games.
The Philippines is a veritable powerhouse in the relatively obscure sport, which is almost unique to the SEA Games and was first introduced when the nation hosted in 2019.
"We are the pioneers of this event," said gold medallist Mark Julius "Jaymark" Rodelas, praising his national Olympic committee for putting the eccentric sport on the calendar.
The event is something like a cross between athletics and the final round of a particularly physical TV game show.
On this year's frenetic course, competitors had to traverse uneven steps; trampoline onto monkey bars; jump a four-foot wall; take the balance beam; hand-pedal along on hanging wheels; top another wall; swing along hanging rings; and commando roll under a net, before swinging rope and scrambling up a near-vertical ramp to hit the finishing button.
On the first day of full schedules in Phnom Penh, the Philippines took gold and silver in the women's final, winner Precious Caluya embracing defeated finalist Kaizen Dela Cerna on the final platform, before the pair waved the national flag together.
Repeating the scene 20 minutes later were their compatriots, Rodelas and his defeated opponent Kevin Pascua, previous bronze and gold medallists respectively.
Rodelas, a 35-year-old Manila native who used to teach high-school English, finished in 25.19, and told reporters afterwards that to prepare for such a variously taxing event he had to "train every time. And then focus on your health, your body."
"Put all the positive vibes in your mind," he added. "Don't feed the negative vibes."