Don’t call it a comeback. Nikko Huelgas never left.
The two-time Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) gold medal winner recently bagged the Ironman 70.3 in Cebu. With this victory, Huelgas proved that he’s in the best shape of his life, and ready to bring more hardware home from international competition.
This was his first try in the triathlon brand, but he showed no rookie jitters. Huelgas clocked in 4:24:56 in the 113-kilometer swim-bike-run course, finishing ahead of Eric Watson, Like Mckenzie, and Shen Yen Hsieh.
“I still have it”
Huelgas introduced himself to the general sporting public in 2017, after a victory in Malaysia’s SEA Games. The following year, he finished 16th in Indonesia.
He subsequently won the Tri Factor Series Indonesia leg and finished seventh in the Pro category of Challenge Vietnam. But these weren’t enough to put him back on top or even on the radar.
But when you’re down, the only way to go is up. And in sports, that means racking up victories.
“I had a bad 2018, a bad Asian Games performance and I got depressed after that because I didn’t get the result I need,” said Huelgas.
“It’s embarrassing for the country to have that kind of performance wherein I know I could’ve been better.”
So when the Ironman 70.3 competition called, Huelgas answered.
“For me, this event solidified to the federation and to the spectators that I still have it and I can still improve and I can still take part with the contingent and represent our country,” he said.
Huelgas’ uncertainty that the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (Trap) will include him as part of the country’s contingency in the 2019 SEA Games motivated him.
“I found out that there’s a possibility that I won’t be able to participate in the SEA Games, everything just exploded in me,” he admitted.
Could that decision change? Time will tell. But Huelgas has certainly inched closer to that possibility.
“I know in myself that getting into the national team would be tough but hopefully they [Trap] will hear that I can still compete,” said Huelgas.