Recreation and Sports

Conquering the world | Inquirer Sports

The world champions at the podium. —JUNE NAVARRO

GAINESVILLE, Georgia—After a forgettable stint in the Asian Games, the Philippine dragonboat team is back in business on the world stage.

The Filipino paddlers struck with two gold medals right on opening day, sending shock waves in the 2018 ICF Dragon Boat World Championships on the calm and placid waters of the Lake Lanier Olympic Park here.

They successfully defended the 20-seater senior mixed 500-meter title that the team previously won in the 2016 edition of the worlds held in Moscow, Russia, after taking off with a victory in the 10-seater senior mixed 500m race early in the morning under sunny skies.

“We were disappointed with our performance in the Asian Games and we used that disappointment to motivate ourselves in this tournament,” said Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragonboat Federation president Jonne Go.

Ojay Fuentes and Hermie Macaranas led the charge in the small boat along with steerer Maribeth Caranto and drummer Patricia Bustamante to topple prerace favorites Hungary and host United States by a full boat.

The Filipinos reached the finish in 2:07.5 with the Hungarians settling for the silver by a split-second (2:11.36) difference against the Americans, who completed the medal cast in 2:11.86.

“We never really doubted the team’s ability. Once again, they showed the world that we Filipinos are world-class in this sport,” said Go For Gold’s Jeremy Go, who helped finance the team together with the Philippine Sports Commission.

With the best dragonboat countries on the planet in attendance, the Filipinos ruled the big boat senior mixed 500m race in 1:52.58, three seconds faster than their gold-winning feat in the same event in 2016 Moscow.

“Our target really was to surpass our previous clocking and I’m proud that we have accomplished that goal,” said head coach Len Escollante.

The Pinoy paddlers, featuring Mark Frias, Reymart Nevado, Oliver Manaig and John Paul Selencio, were nearly three seconds ahead of Hungary (1:55.09) and the Czech Republic (1:55.14) when they crossed the line.

Completing the mixed cast in the small boat were lady paddlers Raquel Almencion, Rosalyn Esguerra, Rhea Rhoa and Christine Talledo.

The Filipinos are going for a third straight gold medal on Friday (Saturday in Manila) in the men’s 200m small boat finals.

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