Asian Games: BMX rider ends PH gold drought

POOLED REPORT

 

INCHEON, South Korea—Team Philippines is going home with at least one gold medal, thanks to a world-class BMX cyclist who preferred to train in seclusion and surprise an unsuspecting opposition that was reduced to eating his dust at the Ganghwa Track.

Daniel Patrick Caluag delivered as expected with a dominant performance in BMX—topping the morning seeding run to send a strong message and ruling all three motos to annex the 17th Asian Games gold medal to the continental championship he won two years ago in Singapore.

Daniel Caluag with his gold medal.
Daniel Caluag with his gold medal.

“We came here focused and we conquered!” Caluag told reporters minutes after sending each member of the Philippine delegation into a frenzy as the agonizing wait for a gold medal finally ended. “This is for our country. This is for the Filipino people.”

Caluag, 27, has kept everyone clueless as to his fitness to win gold in the Games. After his success at the Asian Championship in 2013, he focused on finishing Nursing in the US—he is now a Registered Nurse. But he never left track.

“I remained focus on my task for these Games by racing with the world’s best in the US,” he said. “BMX in the US is so high level that on a given weekend, you get the best training, preparation and competition possible.”

The seeding run was peanuts for the Filipino-American whose father is from Bataan and his mother a native of Bulacan. He clocked 35.431 seconds over the 400-meter Olympic track to set the tone for his golden run that all but gave each member of the Philippine delegation here a big sigh of relief.

The veteran of the London 2012 Olympics and 2013 Asian Championships gold medalist kept that position in all three motos—35.277 in moto 1, 35.366 in moto 2 where he edged Japan’s Masahiro Sampei in a photo finish and 35.431 in moto 3.

Sampei settled for the silver medal while China’s Zhu Yan bagged the bronze.
With Caluag’s victory, the Philippine haul on Wednesday stood at 1-2-5 (gold-silver-bronze). Wushu produced two silvers and one bronze medal while taekwondo had two and archery one bronze medal.

Caluag’s younger brother Christopher John, 26, missed out on a 1-3 finish for the Philippines. The 26-year-old Christopher John was third after the first two motos but landed fifth in the third to finish fourth overall.

The BMX gold was the Philippines first in cycling since the 1951 Asian Games.

The country’s record in the sport prior to Incheon was two silver and eight bronze medals. The now retired former Tour champion Victor Espiritu bagged the country’s last Asian Games medal after finishing third in men’s road race in the 1988 Bangkok edition.

While the longing for a gold medal looked dimmer each day, Caluag made winning one look so easy.

His team, including coach Greg Romero, arrived here Sunday. They didn’t get to see the track on Monday because of bad weather and were only able to see the venue on Tuesday.

There weren’t any long ride during inspection. They only took notes, checked on the humps and turns. Tuesday night was time to strategize.

“We decided that I start from the outside lane to make it easier for me to maneuver into the lead. Luckily our strategy paid off and I was also fortunate not to crash,” he said.

BMX has officially become an Olympic event during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hong Kong’s Steven Wong won the inaugural Asian Games gold in Guangzhou four years ago.

 

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