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King Cray still reigns

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PSC ERIC Cray celebrates after securing his sixth straight title in the men’s 400-meter hurdles event of the 32nd SEA Games.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Eric Cray is not yet ready to relinquish his throne.

With medals coming in trickles for Team Philippines, Cray stole the show and clinched his sixth straight title when he ruled the men’s 400-meter hurdles event of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games at the Morodok Techo National Stadium late Thursday here.

The Filipino-American hurdler clocked 50.03 seconds to storm into his sixth gold medal over Natthapon Dansungnoen of Thailand and Calvin Quek of Singapore, who settled for the silver and bronze medals with 50.73 and 50.75 seconds, respectively.

The Texas-based Cray has yet to lose in his pet event in the past six editions of the Games — 2013 in Myanmar, 2015 in Singapore, 2017 in Malaysia, 2019 in the Philippines and 2022 in Vietnam.

His time was way below his own Philippine record of 48.98 seconds that he achieved at the IAAF World Challenge in Moratalaz, Madrid in 2016, but it was enough to give him a sixth straight 400m hurdles’ title and eighth gold overall to crown himself as the most successful track athlete in the SEA Games.

His other two gold medals came from the 100-meter run during the 2015 Singapore Games and the 4×100 mixed relay in the 2019 edition at the New Clark City Stadium in Tarlac.

He said despite his sports hernia, he gave everything he got to award the country its 27th gold medal entering the halfway mark of the biennial meet.

“I’m feeling good. We changed up my training, to get ready for the Asian Championships,” Cray, who is being trained by his wife, Samantha, said.

“I’m on pace. I feel a little bit of pain but I’m ready to move forward with my season.”

The 35-year-old Cray said he is looking forward to make a return to the Olympics.

He, however, remains undecided if he will go for his seventh title when the SEA Games move to Thailand in 2025.

“That (Olympics) is the goal,” Cray said.

“I have to qualify first in Paris, then I’ll take it from there.”

Cray joins pole vaulter EJ Obiena and long jumper Janry Ubas as the only gold medalists for the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association so far.

His victory was the highlight of the day for Team Philippines, which struggled to win gold medals in various fronts for second straight day with only two silver and two bronze medals being added to its harvest.

Another Fil-Am in Robyn Brown settled for silver in the women’s 400-meter hurdles after clocking 56.51 seconds as Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Huyen won the gold with 56.29 seconds.

Kristian Narca also snagged the silver medal after losing to Laingkousin Khun of Cambodia via unanimous decision in the men’s 57-kilogram khun khmer competition.

Former Ronda Pilipinas champion Ronald Oranza got third place in the men’s cycling criterium in Siem Reap while Jylyn Nicanor settled for bronze medal of the women’s fencing sabre.

As of 7 p.m., the Philippines has won 27 gold, 47 silver and 63 bronze medals to place sixth overall.

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