Surfer Roger Casugay of the Philippines was going for gold at the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games’ Men’s Longboard Open, but he ended up sacrificing a potential win, putting a fellow competitor before himself and averting a crisis.
On Dec. 6, 2019, Casugay was competing against Indonesian surfer Arip Nurhidayat in a qualifying round held in the northern Philippines. Nurhidayat surfed into a spot of trouble; according to the United Philippine Surfing Association, the Indonesian competitor’s surfboard leash snapped and detached itself from his board, leaving Nurhidayat stuck in between ferocious waves.
Casugay, despite being points ahead, spotted his competitor in distress and headed in his direction. He grabbed Nurhidayat, and the two surfers shared a single surfboard as they rode back to the safety of the shore.
Netizen and surfer Jefferson Ganuelas posted about the incident on Facebook. “The #seagames2019 surfing is on hold,” he wrote. “Indonesian longboard sensation @mencosss broke his leash and swept away and [was] being pounded by triple overhead bomb waves at monaliza pt.
“Local surfer @roger_casugay rescued him, not minding the ongoing race for gold medal. One of the best.”
After the incident, the two athletes smiled warmly and held one another’s hands in the air like champions. The gathered crowd, heartened by the Filipino surfer’s selfless act, largely paid no heed to the race’s delayed status and cheered the surfers’ safe return to the shore instead.
Casugay, from the northern Filipino town of Bacnotan, explained what happened after event organizers halted the competition. “[Nurhidayat] thanked me and then said sorry,” Casugay regaled, as per The Star Online. “I told him not to say sorry because that’s the way it is. There is no way of knowing what will happen.”
The 25-year-old surfer was keen to dispel rumors that Nurhidayat was “drowning” in the waves after people commented on footage that showed the Indonesian surfer waving his hands in the air.
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“I wanted to confirm that Arip, during our heat, he is not drowning,” Casugay said in a video message uploaded to Instagram. “He is waving his arms because he wants the back-up boards. Other people thought [Nurhidayat] is drowning, but he’s not.”
According to Fox Sports, as of Dec. 6, the 2019 SEA Games had already been delayed three times due to bad weather. The Men’s Longboard Open event was put on hold for two days and resumed on Dec. 8; Casugay won gold.
It was a double victory for the Filipino; as well as walking away with gold, Casugay was hailed as a hero for sacrificing his initial medal run for the sake of a fellow surfer’s safety.
The surfer’s selfless act generated thousands of supportive comments on social media. Responding to Ganuelas’s original post, one Facebook user wrote: “[Life] is more important than gold. Good job.”
“Mad props to these legends,” wrote another. “Deserves to be the highlight of #seagames2019.”
The Philippine Sports Commission even tweeted about the awesome rescue. “For a champion is known not only with the medals they reap but also with the heart that shows their golden spirit,” they wrote.
“Filipino surfer Roger Casugay personified this truth when he gave up his lead in the gold medal race to save opponent, Arip Nurhidayat of Indonesia,” the commission added, posting on the day of the race as the footage went viral.
Sometimes, it seems, camaraderie and good sportsmanship is simply more important than winning first place.
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Author: Louise Bevan