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MANILA, Philippines - Soon after Bianca Gotuaco assembles her bow, she looks at the target and aims.
Poised to hit the center of the target 30 meters away, sometimes farther, her calm concentration shows that she has been doing this for a while. She hits the target and loads another arrow into the bow -- another hit.
Gotuaco does this almost everyday, for 2 to 3 hours. She is practicing archery, a sport she will be competing in at the Palarong Pambansa, the Philippines’ national sports tournament for elementary and high school students.
14-year-old Gotuaco is the closest thing in the Philippines to Katniss Everdeen.
When asked about how she feels about the sudden interest the Hunger Games franchise has generated for her sport, Gotuaco just smiles.
Her mother says that admittedly, the public’s curiosity has been sparked, more and more teenage girls are coming to the archery range to try shooting an arrow, and sometimes, they even have their hair braided like that of the movie character.
Starting from scratch
Gotuaco has been enjoying the sport for 5 years now. Initially influenced by a visiting aunt who used to shoot arrows, she now competes in various archery competitions.
She began by just borrowing her trainer’s equipment. Eventually, as she improved in the sport, she got her own.
She now trains by herself, working harder for the upcoming Palaro.
Gotuaco has joined prestigious tournaments like the Philippine National Games, the Batang Pinoy Nationals, the California State Games and the State Games of America -- and brought home medals.
She is also one of the 11 chosen Batang Pinoy Scholars who will be sent to Britain for a summer sports scholarship.
Balancing archery with school
Archery demands time and practice. Balancing her schoolwork and the competitive nature of the sport has become Gotuaco’s biggest challenge.
The young archer is an incoming 3rd year high school student at International School Manila, a school whose calendar follows the international academic calendar. As a result, their school year breaks fall on June, as opposed to the usual summer vacation breaks in Filipino schools that start in March.
This poses as a problem for Gotuaco, as most of the student sports competitions in the country are held during Philippine summer. She continues to struggle, juggling her classes and competitions.
“I was on the school swim team but then I stopped around a few months ago for archery practice since I couldn’t balance my schedule between both. And then I used to play a little bit football, I used to run a little bit but not as much," said Gotuaco. "So now I only have archery, it inspires me because I know I only have one sport and a sport that I really like that I want to improve in."
Palaro and what the future brings
Gotuaco has competed in the Pambansang Palaro once before.
She told Rappler that it was a fun experience, the competition being one of the bigger events she has participated in.
Aside from meeting friends, she feels that she has earned experience from the tournament. It was the first time that she had experienced the athlete’s parade, shooting in teams, and the audience’s cheers.
This year, she will compete for team NCR again.
This budding athlete’s recipe for success is perhaps due to her focus on herself rather than her competition.
Gotuaco says, “I hope to at least qualify for the Youth Olympic Games, that’s my main goal. Aside from that, just beating my own personal best.” - Rappler.com
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