Athletics gold medallists among new breed of mixed-heritage Filipinos
BIG DAY: Caleb Stuart's hammer title is one of three athletics gold won by the Philippines yesterday. - PHOTO: SINGSOC/ACTION IMAGES
It has worked in recent years for their football team, and it did the trick again on Sunday when the Philippines won the men's rugby 7s gold medal at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
Now, the Filipinos also look like they are shaping up to be a formidable regional force in track and field following the emergence of several mixed heritage athletes.
It was a day to remember for the Philippines after they clinched three of the eight gold medals on offer on the opening day of the track and field programme at the National Stadium yesterday.
Leading the way was Eric Cray, who produced a scintillating run to become the first Filipino to win the men's 100m gold medal, leaving the rest of the field in his wake with a time of 10.25sec.
Like Kayla Richardson and Caleb Stuart, who won the women's 100m and men's hammer throw respectively, yesterday, Cray is born to an American father but qualifies to represent Philippines through his mother.
But, unlike most of his mixed-blood compatriots, Cray was actually born in the country and hails from Olongapo, Zambales.
And he believes there should not be any doubt over the legitimacy of him representing Philippines.
"I definitely have Filipino blood," he said, with a wry grin.
"I think we're seeing more and more athletes with similar origins, but the most important thing is that we know and cherish the traditions of Filipino people.
"My mother is a Filipina and I was born and raised there, before moving to the United States.
"I'm just proud to represent the country of my mother, which I also regard as my country."
Kayla, 17, completed a sprint double for the country when she pipped Thailand's Tassapon Wannakit in a photo-finish to bag the women's 100m with a time of 11.76sec.
As part of this new wave of athletes, the teenager is optimistic it could spell a golden era in Philippines track and field.
She said: "You better believe it… Philippines are coming up!
"I was born in California but my mother is Filipino, and I've been representing Philippines for three to four years now.
"I'm just happy to represent my country and I'm glad I was able to do what I came here to do, which was to win the gold medal."
Rounding off an excellent outing for the Philippines was Stuart's triumph in the hammer throw.
His best was a distance of 65.63m, which eclipsed the previous Games record by 3.4m.
The 24-year-old is also competing in the discus and shot put and will be gunning for gold in the latter discipline this evening, although he faces stiff competition from Games' record holder, Chatchawal Polyiam of Thailand.
The gap between the Philippines’ Caleb Stuart vicrtorious hammer throw of 65.63m to this year’s best result, the 82.76m set by Poland’s Pawel Fajdek.