KUALA LUMPUR – Entering the 29th Southeast Games, Anthony Beram and Aries Toledo were just a pair of nobodies in the national track and field team.
But all that changed Wednesday night as the unheralded Filipino duo hogged the spotlight with impressive debuts in the biennial meet’s athletics competition at the colossal National Stadium inside the KL Sports City here.
Long overshadowed by Jeson Ramil Cid, the 2015 Singapore SEA Games silver medalist, Toledo took the winner’s podium first, making his maiden SEA Games appearance very memorable as he ruled the men’s decathlon in overpowering fashion.
Trailing Thai Suttisak Singkon, who took the decathlete gold in 2014 Incheon Asian Games by nine points after the penultimate event – the javelin throw – the 27-year-old pride of Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija settled the issue with a runaway triumph in the 1,500-meter race.
He took the gold in the 10-event discipline with 6,894 points, relegating the fancied Thai to the silver (6,678), to establish himself as Southeast Asia’s best all-around male athlete.
Toledo then revealed that that he grit his teeth in completing the decathlon despite his aching body telling him to stop.
“Ginawa ko lang ang nararapat kahit ang likod ko, yong braso ko (sa javelin throw), yung buong katawan ko,” said the athlete, his body practically wrapped in pain-relieving tape. “Sabi ko sa Itaas na huwag akong bibigay dahil kailangan ‘to para sa Pilipinas.”
The wiry and dusky athlete added that he wouldn’t even be here had he not broken Jeson Ramil Cid’s national decathlon record in the Thailand Open last June with a tally of 7,127 points, surprising his illustrious teammate’s old mark of 6,924 points.
“Na-break ko yong record ng partner kong si Jeson kaya ako ang pinadala rito,” said Toledo, who credited national coach Sean Guevarra for the success in converting him from being a sprinter to the decathlon.
Beram, on the other hand, was just as pleasantly surprised by his golden debut in the men’s 200-meter run, avenging fellow Fil-Am Eric Shawn Cray’s loss in the men’s century sprint to hometown boy Khairul Hafiz Jantan, who placed a distant fourth.
“I thought top three (in the men’s 200) would be good so winning the gold is a bonus,” said Beram, who embellished his winning performance in surpassing his own national record of 20.96 seconds in less than month by clocking 20.84 seconds.
To think, he said, “I just took to running to stay in shape for my first sport, baseball. I seemed to have the knack for it.”
A mathematics student at the University of Connecticut, Beram, whose Filipina mother hails from Cebu, said he was just happy to suit up for the country “since I am only 21 so this is just the beginning.
“I knew that I was coming in as a rookie, nobody knows me so it is good to put my name out there.”
Now, everything has changed.
True enough, everybody loves a winner.