Cray paces paltry 4-gold haul, PH still 3rd in SEAG

Hanoi—Ageless runner Eric Cray, cue artist Rubilen Amit, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, and a muay thai duo saved the day for a Philippine contingent that stepped on the breaks Tuesday and remained stuck at third spot behind host Vietnam and Thailand in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.

POOL STARS. Carlo Biado (left) and Rubilen Amit (right) sealed more gold medals for the Philippines in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games on Tuesday by dominating their respective events in 9-ball billards for men and women, respectively.

Of the four gold achievers for the day, Cray was the most impressive.

Running in pain with a hamstring injury, the 33-year-old Eric Cray extended his reign as the region’s 400m hurdles king with another blazing show against younger runners to clinch his seventh career SEAG gold medal at the My Dinh National track.

The Philippines kept its hold on third place overall in the medal standings with 34 golds, 37 silvers and 47 bronzes, with second placer Thailand threatening to move away with a 40-40-62 haul.

Host Vietnam continued to widen its lead with a 95-62-62 count, with Singapore in fourth (27-31-32), followed by Indonesia (25-38-35).

Filipino athletes also bagged four silver medals, two of them in athletics, on top of eight bronzes.

A constant source of pride in the international scene, billiards contributed to the paltry haul as Amit defeated Singapore’s Jessica Chan, 7-1, in the women’s finals of 9-ball singles at the Hadong District Sporting Hall.

Another sure gold will come from an all-Filipino billiards finale on Wednesday, with Carlo Biado, the reigning US Open champion, facing Johann Chua in the men’s 9-ball singles.

Mobbed by Vietnamese fans here everywhere, billiards legend Efren “Bata” Reyes remained in the running in the 1-cushion carom singles, as well as Chezka Centeno, who is still in the hunt in 10-ball-singles where she is the reigning champion.

With Philippine Olympic Committee President and Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino watching, Barbosa routed Jaijulla Panachai of Thailand, 16-7, in the men’s – 54kg of taekwondo at the Tay Ho Gymnasium, adding to the golden win of Jocel Lyn Ninoble in women’s poomsae last Sunday.

The Muay Thai tandem of Islay Erika Bomogao and Rhichein Yosorez delivered the fourth mint for the day by topping the women’s waikru mai muay contest.

Given up for dead by critics for failing to join the Tokyo Olympics’ team due to injury, Cray was back with a vengeance, as he submitted a time of 50.41 seconds to clinch his fifth straight 400m hurdles SEAG gold in a reign that began during the 2013 biennial meet in Myanmar.

His other two came in the century dash during the 2015 Singapore games and the 4×100 mixed relay in the 2019 edition at home at the New Clark City Stadium in Tarlac.

Cray’s time fell short of the 50.21 he did in the 2019 Philippine SEA Games but was enough to foil the challenge of a hometown favorite at the peak of his powers, 27-year-old Cong Lich Quach, who finished with 50.82.

Meanwhile, Gilas Pilipinas scored a runaway 100-32 win against the Cambodians at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium, while the Gilas women, bolstered by a rousing opening-day win over Indonesia, faces a big test Wednesday when it battles a Thai side seeking revenge.

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