Although virtually unbeatable in Southeast Asia, Nikko Huelgas and Kim Mangrobang are aware that they will be going up against Asia’s big guns in the 18th Asian Games triathlon competitions unfolding on Friday.
Reigning Southeast Asian Game’s women’s triathlon champion Mangrobang and vastly-improved Kim Kilgroe take first crack at the swim-bike-run event starting at 7:30am (8:30am in Manila) within and around the Jakabaring Sport City complex in Palembang, Indonesia.
“With her present from, a top five finish would not be far-fetched for Kim – and if she steps up, I wouldn’t be surprised of a podium finish,” said coach Annie de Leon-Brown of the Europe-trained Mangrobang, who placed ninth in the last Asiad held in Incheon, South Korea four years ago.
Brown also pointed out that while defending Japanese champion Ai Ueda is not around, compatriot Yuka Sato, ranked No. 20 in the International Triathlon world ratings, looms as the top favorite in the women’s division.
Huelgas, a two-time SEA Games gold medalist, and John Chicano, the 2017 Malaysian SEA Games medalist, will see action in the men’s competition on Saturday, which Brown said would be even tougher considering there will be more entries.
“If either Nikko or John finish in the top ten we would be happy,” Brown admitted.
In the mixed relay on Sunday, Huelgas and Mangrobang will be joined by Claire Adorna, the 2017 Singapore SEAG gold medalist, and Mark Hosana.
“Claire and Mark were chosen (to be part of the team) because they were really meant for the mixed relay, which promises to be an exciting race,” Brown added.
While she had no complaints about the swim leg at the JSC man-made lake, the coach is worried about the bike course, “because we saw there were still grains of sand on the road during practice. This could result in accidents once the triathletes race around the route, which is a bit technical (hard).”
Brown said that they were assured by Asian Games organizers that they would clear the road of sand to make it safe and secure for the riders.