The Philippines’ 4×400 meter team, backed by the son of an athletic legend and a new Fil-American recruit, concluded the team’s campaign with a surprise gold at the close of the athletics competitions in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games at the Morodok Techno National Stadium on Friday night.
The Philippines last won the 4×400 in the Myanmar SEA Games, with Isidro del Prado Jr., the son of athletic icon Isidro Sr., spearheading the team. This time, it was his younger brother Michael del Prado who led the assault to get it back. Together with Frederick Ramirez and Joyme Sequita, they built a comfortable lead going into the last runner, Fil-heritage athlete Umajesty Williams.
Suiting up in his first and biggest multi-nation competition ever, the 23-year-old Williams held the fort as the team’s last runner and had enough gas in the tank to fend off a fast-charging Thawatchai Khongjeam. The Philippines pulled off the stunning win by .1 of a second with its total time of 3:02.22. Thailand, the defending champion, clocked 3:07.23, with Myanmar placing third at 3:08.82.
“I knew he was coming, I know my competition, he’s a very strong athlete. I knew I wasn’t going to get away with it easily. But I’m happy and blessed that we won the gold for the Philippines,” said Williams, who made his national team debut two months ago in the National Open in Ilagan, Isabela.
“Unexpected na mananalo kami ngayon, kasi last SEA Games, 4th lang kami. Sulit ang 6 months na training,” said Ramirez.
Half an hour earlier, the Philippine women’s 4×400 squad, led by Robyn Brown and Maureen Schrijvers, settled for the silver at 3:37.70 behind a Vietnamese team, bannered by Thi Anh Thuc Hoang.
The most surprising result, however, came in the women’s pole vault, where a 16-year-old Palarong Pambansa standout, Gennah Malapitan, led a 2-3 finish for the Filipinos. The 5’9” Malapitan, who joined the SEA Games to gain experience, ended up bagging the silver as she hurled the spear to a stunning 49.55 meters, four meters better than her personal best, and some three behind the 52.6 of Thailand’s Jariya Wichaidit, last year’s silver medalist. Veteran Evalyn Palabrica made 48.31 meters for the bronze.
Meanwhile, Kristina Knott, who finished 4th in the women’s 200-meters on Monday, did not start the 100-m finals due to a hamstring injury.
“Her coaches may have decided not to take the risk, malapit na kasi ang Asian championships,” said national team coach Jojo Posadas of the 27-year-old Knott, the 200-meter queen in 2019.