The long wait is over! BMX Olympic cyclist Daniel Patrick Caluag on Thursday delivered Philippines very first gold medal in the 17th Asian Games when hopes were fading.
Caluag was unbeatable in all three races at the Ganghwa Asiad BMX Track after he topped the time trial, a performance expected of him despite the doubts raised after he finished last in the London Games where he was also touted as a gold medal bet.
There were no flops this time as Caluag proved himself the ‘King of Two Wheels’ of the Asiad.
Caluag raced consistently, logging 35.277 seconds in his first run, 35.366 in the second and 35.431 in the third, topping all three against his closest Japanese pursuer, Masahiro Sampei.
Caluag was never threatened as he improved the Philippines’ meager haul to one gold — his own, two silvers from wushu, and five bronze medals coming from two wushu artists, an archer and two more taekwondo jins.
The fifth bronze was delivered also Thursday by taekwondo jin Mary Anjelay Pelaez, who brought down Nway Nway of Myanmar in the quarterfinals of the women’s -46kg before she bowed to Kim Sohui of Korea, 14-2, in the semifinals.
“Daniel’s gold medal came at a time when we were in bad need of a booster in our campaign. Our team is trying to give a final but strong kick in the last two or three days. Our boxers will also go for the gold medal fights today,” Chief of Mission and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Ricardo ‘Ritchie’ Garcia said.
“On a personal note, Daniel’s gold is also a nice birthday gift for me,” added Garcia, who turned 69-years old yesterday.
“Sayang nga lang at hindi nakuha ng brother nya (Christopher John Caluag) yung bronze medal. Nakadalawa sana tayo sa BMX.”
The younger Caluag placed fourth behind Daniel, Sampei and China’s Zhu Yan.
Caluag’s gold slightly pushed the Philippines up to 22nd in the overall medal tally that still has China lording it over with 129 golds, 85 silvers and 68 bronzes. Participants here dubbed the Asian Games as “China against the rest of Asia.”
The Philippines is still behind Southeast Asian Games rivals Thailand (7th), Singapore (13th), Malaysia (14th), Indonesia (16th) and Vietnam (21st) in the medal count.
Eric Shauwn Cray finished 6th in the men’s 400m hurdles finals; while fellow trackster Jesson Ramil Cid was not able to finish the Men’s Decathlon finals after not clearing his pole vault event.
The women’s softball team known as the Blue Girls bid its campaign goodbye with a 3-0 defeat to the mighty Chinese.
The Philippines’ rugby team known as the Volcanoes boosted its chance at a medal by drubbing Pakistan, 59-0, Thursday morning. But it was brought back to earth by Hong Kong with a 21-0 triumph that sent out the Filipinos out of the semifinals.
The men’s basketball team known as the Gilas Pilipinas ended its losing skein with an 84-68 win over Mongolia. All it could save, however, was seventh place — its worst in this quadrennial tournament.
Wrestler Jason Balabal defeated Ibrahim Hanini of Palestine in the 1/8 Final of the men’s Greco-Roman 85kg, 4-0.
Azat Beishebehov of Kyrgystan, however, beat him in the quarterfinals, 4-0.