The Philippines accomplished a historic feat on the world stage after collecting five gold medals to seal the overall title in the 2018 ICF World Dragon Boat Championships.
The national paddlers from the Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragon Boat Federation capped their scintillating performance with a victory in the 10-seater senior men’s 200-meter race, to surpass the country’s best finish six years ago.
Slicing through water with super fast strokes, the Filipinos rushed to the line in 47.39 seconds, leaving Italy (49.58) and Hungary (49.87) by almost a full boat in their final race of the four-day tournament at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park here.
Those five gold medals and two silvers overshadowed the five-gold, one-silver collection that the Philippines achieved in the 2012 edition of the worlds in Milan, Italy.
“I was a part of that team that did it in Italy,’’ said coach Diomedes Manalo in Filipino. “I knew these kids are special, so I’m not surprised when they beat the previous record.’’
Veterans Mark Jhon Frias, Hermie Macaranas and Ojay Fuentes were consistently quick from the get-go along with John Lester Delos Santos, Oliver Manaig, Reymart Nevado, Lee Robin Santos, Jordan De Guia, Roger Masbate, and John Paul Selencio.
With less than 50 meters left, drummer Patricia Bustamante and steersman Maribeth Caranto then signaled them to pour it all as they surged to the finish past the Italians.
All of them were teary-eyed when the Philippine flag was raised and the national anthem played for the fifth and final time during the awarding ceremony.
“All the hard work paid off. This is for our country,’’ said head coach Len Escollante, who expressed her gratitude to Go For Gold for funding the women’s team.
The presence of the lady paddlers was vital, since four of the five gold medals they had won were mixed team races.
“I’m proud to say that the Philippines is the world champion in dragon boat racing,’’ said PCKDF president Jonne Go, who also thanked Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. and the Philippine Sports Commission.
Apart from winning the 10-seater and 20-seater senior mixed 200m races, the Filipinos also struck gold in the small boat and big boat of the senior mixed 500m.
They settled for silver medals in the big boat senior mixed 2000m and small boat men’s 500m.