Dumagueteña star swimmer bags 7 gold medals, splashes way to Palaro

John Sitchon

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Dumagueteña star swimmer bags 7 gold medals, splashes way to Palaro

STAR. Teen swimmer Kacie Gabrielle Tionko (center) of Dumaguete City celebrates with her supporters.

Contributed photo/Kristine Joyce Tionko

'I want to take swimming seriously and become a professional swimmer…I want to try and reach the Olympics,' says Kacie Gabrielle Tionko, a 16-year-old from Dumaguete City who starred in the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association Meet

CEBU, Philippines – Armed with a squishy toy and a heart full of dreams, 16-year-old Kacie Gabrielle Tionko looks all set for a huge comeback in the Palarong Pambansa 2024.

During the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVIRAA) Meet 2024 held in Cebu City from May 4 to May 9, the athlete from Dumaguete City dominated by winning five gold medals in five individual swimming events, and two gold medals in two relay events.

By hitting the official qualifying time standards, Tionko also secured a return stint to the Palarong Pambansa – which will likewise be held in Cebu City this July – a year after a winning campaign.

With her latest feat, Tionko said it felt satisfying that the rigorous training she went through paid off.

“It was very tiring because I would go to the pool at 4 or 5 am and I’d have to balance my school work with my training,” the athlete told Rappler on Thursday, May 9. 

Tionko has been in the sport for 12 years, competing in multiple swimming competitions. 

In the Palarong Pambansa 2023 in Marikina City, she won a gold medal in the secondary girls 100-meter freestyle event and a bronze medal in the 200-meter freestyle event.

Dumagueteña star swimmer bags 7 gold medals, splashes way to Palaro

The Dumagueteña also represented Negros Oriental in the Batang Pinoy 2023 National Championship in December. There, she won two gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.

In February, she joined the national swimming team for the Asian Juniors Age Championship 2024.

This time for the upcoming nationals, Tionko aims to come back for more gold medals and make a splash by breaking records one swimming event at a time.

Reaching the Olympics

“I want to take swimming seriously and become a professional swimmer…I want to try and reach the Olympics,” Tionko told Rappler.

The young swimmer shared that she looks up to Philippine swimming team standout Xiandi Chua.

Tionko’s coach Rosethan Siroy believes the young athlete has what it takes to go far, noting that the promising Dumagueteña has impressive endurance.

“People, nowadays, see swimming as a sport that revolves around speed but in reality, since the beginning, swimming has always been an endurance sport,” Siroy said.

According to the coach, Tionko’s daily training sessions typically range from three to four hours of swimming and on long holidays, between six to seven hours.

“Kacie has this [specialty] because she started out as an endurance swimmer so she can swim all events. DepEd right now only has five events to offer but she can swim it all if she wants to,” Siroy added. 

The coach told Rappler that during the CVIRAA, she was only performing at around 80%. He explained that the Palarong Pambansa will serve as a tune-up for her performance in the 46th SEA Age Group Aquatics Championship in August.

When asked to describe what Tionko’s 100% performance would look like, Siroy said that Tionko is a “beast.”

Squishy, music

At every athletic meet, one can find the young swimmer making new friends and carrying around a squishy toy. 

In her spare time, the athlete enjoys listening to music, specifically from her favorite artist, Filipino-English singer and songwriter Beabadoobee. 

She said the artist’s songs help her remove any tension or anxiety before making the dive in any tournament. 

With her “squishy” and music to help her mental preparations, Tionko has what she needs to make a great run, but if there is one other thing she cannot go to a swimming event without, it is her mother Kristine Joyce. 

Tionko knows that her mother is her No. 1 supporter.

“She sacrifices a lot because she works at night and then she finishes work early in the morning. She barely has time to sleep but still brings me to training…I love you, mom,” the young athlete said during an interview.

Kristine told Rappler how watching her child’s progress as an athlete has been a fulfilling experience. 

As a former athlete herself, Kristine understands her daughter’s dedication to the sport and only wishes that the young swimmer pushes on towards bigger tournaments with no regrets. 

“She will sleep late because of school work, but when I ask her if she wants to swim tomorrow morning, she would always say yes,” the mother said.

Kristine shared that the Tionko family puts in a lot of effort to support their star athlete, especially when it comes to expenses for trips to the tournaments. The mother hoped that the government would consider providing them with additional assistance in supporting Kacie’s journey.

“Gabie, you have the dedication in swimming. Continue reaching for that Olympic dream, mommy, daddy, Tatay, Mama Ting, Lola Remy, and everyone else in the family is always here for you.”


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