WATCH: UST athlete from Caraga eyes Palaro gold in taekwondo
MANILA, Philippines – Gianne Chiong has come a long way from her Agusan National High School roots.
Moving on from her high school Taekwando club after being granted an athletic scholarship at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), the 17-year-old has proven to be an excellent young athlete.
After previously representing her native Caraga region in a losing effort in last year’s Palarong Pambansa in Albay, Gianne, now a Grade 11 member of UST’s taekwando girls’ team, is slated to set foot once again on the national stage.
This time around, her eyes are set firmly on the gold medal.
Gianne was introduced to the sport when she was in the first grade after her aunt encouraged her to learn how to defend herself. But she made the decision to take up taekwando herself.
“I've loved taekwondo. I’m a fan of physical fitness and martial arts. It’s unique, (because in) taekwondo, you use your fists and your feet. You do kicking and punching,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Gianne added that there’s more to the sport than meets the eye. “You learn a lot of moral lessons through the sport. I learned to be more respectful of those who know more than I do, and to have discipline in everything I do."
Fanning the flames
The road to this year’s Palaro is no walk in the park for Gianne.
The young taekwando standout shared how preparing for Palaro has been tiring. It entailed severe restrictions on diet, weight conditioning, and hours of rest.
But while Gianne prepares rigorously for her second Palaro campaign from April 23 to 29, she said that what drives her to persevere is her family in Agusan.
“Through taekwando, po, matutulungan ko family ko. I received a scholarship through this sport and this will help my family financially.Kapag may problema, hindi na sila kailangan gumastos ng malaki sa education ko,” she said. (Through taekwondo, I am able to help my family. Whenever we face financial problems, at least they don’t have to spend anything for my education.)
An ‘emotional’ hunt for gold
Gianne is no stranger to defeat. She holds herself to account when she comes up short.
To this point, in losing bouts, she gives herself “deductions” when she hits below the belt or steps outside the mat; and even when she makes the slightest of mistakes on the playing field.
Palaro has been a learning experience for her, Gianne said.
“Yung knowledge ko po sa laro, importante. When I was competing, na-pick-up ko na 'wag maging overconfident sa sarili kasi that will take you down,” Gianne noted. (My knowledge of the game is very important. When I was competing, I learned not to be overconfident because that will take me down.)
“Just always listen, listen to the coach din kasi ‘yun ‘yung makakatulong sayo para manalo.” (Just always listen, listen to the coach because that will help you win.) It’s not chartering new territory to see athletes place much pressure on their performance.
Gianne is an "emotional" athlete, and for reasons Filipino athletes know all too well.
“I’m an emotional athlete because when I play, I always think of my family. They made a lot of sacrifices for me so I want to bring back my achievements to them...It’s not easy for them to spend money on me, to put all that on the line for me,” Gianne said.
When asked about her biggest goal for this year’s Palarong Pambansa, Gianne made herself clear: “The gold, of course.” – with a report from Jaen Manegdeg/Rappler.com
Fidel Feria is a Rappler intern from Colegio San Juan de Letran.