Huelgas "overwhelmed" at finishing "perfect" SEA Games triathlon at sub-two hours

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG--Triathlon has now become among the hottest sports right now.

Starting with the hosting of Ironman 70.3 Triathlons, the Philippines has now seen triathletes joining the full 140.6-mile Ironman races and even two Filipinos finishing the dreaded Norseman Xtreme Triathlon.

Not to mention a daytime drama series which focuses on triathlon with one of the lead actors, Kim Chiu, even joining one in real life.

Add to the growing list of testaments Nikko Huelgas' successful conquest in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Huelgas led the Philippines' 1-2 finish in the said race that eventually led to a "grand slam" as the Filipina triathletes also went home with the gold and silver.

Huelgas did it in fashion, finishing in less than two hours.

"It was very overwhelming to be able to break the barrier of two hours in the SEA Games," Huelgas said on Thursday about achieving the feat during the post-SEA Games press conference of him and Gilas Pilipinas hosted by Chooks To Go at the Marco Polo Hotel.

He added, "It's a very big step in Philippine triathlon. With that kind of performance, it shows that we found a solution to keep progressing for Philippine triathlon."

And he has the entire triathlon community to thank for.

"We woudln't be here if not for the entire triathlon community," Huelgas continued.

However, he admitted that the pressure to finish the race in less that two hours began to mount in the final 10 kilometers of the race, which was the running part.

"[The toughest part] would definitely be the run, because I was a little bit running out of gas but I was trying to make sure that I stay mentally tough all throughout the 10 kilometers, maintain my strides and technique, and be able to finish strong not only to win gold but also to get that sub-two hours," Huelgas relayed.

Despite the toughness of the run, the weather in Kuala Lumpur that time helped Huelgas a lot in keeping his pace.

"I find the weather in the KL SEA Games to be very comfortable. I enjoyed the race. It wasn't too hot nor rainy. I was very thankful that it became a perfect race," he said about the atmosphere during the race.

With that, he vowed to stay as one of the sport's top guns.

"With our duty as nationakl athletes, we are here to set the standards high. I vow and promise to make sure that the standards will never go below. 

Meanwhile, Huelgas expressed his openness to join the Ironman 70.3 triathlons in the future.

"I'm definitely considering joining a lot of 70.3[-mile] races just to make sure that we keep the ball rolling, consistently train, and have a goal," he said.

While, he is still closing his doors on joining the full 140.6-mile races, he is glad that a full-distance Ironman race will happen in the Philippines next year.

"I am so happy and excited to be part of it. In fact, I'm gonna be there and watch," Huelgas continued.

The said Ironman 140.6 race is just one of the signs of a brighter future ahead for Philippine triathlon.

"It's getting big with or without the result becasue of the love of the Filipinos for endurance sports right now," he said. "This is only the beginning for me and the rest of Philippine triathlon."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno