Gina Iniong's sacrifice pays off with SEA Games kickboxing gold

MANILA, Philippines – Success often requires sacrifice, and Gina Iniong's moment of glory in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games is no exception.

Iniong, who competes as a mixed martial artist with an 8-4 record in the women's atomweight division of ONE Championship, tied the knot with her longtime partner Richard Araos last October.

The 30-year-old Baguio City native could have chosen to be anywhere on her honeymoon, but she chose to don the country's colors in the regional biennial meet.

When Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas held tryouts for the national team, Iniong was one of the many athletes who were invited as the group sought to bolster the lineup with the local scene's cream of the crop.

"There was a tryout for kickboxing, and they were looking for an experienced fighter. I tried out, and, luckily, I got in. I have a background in martial arts, and I have been training [in] kickboxing long before I joined the national team, so I never thought I would have a problem adjusting," she recalled.

As she earned a spot on the squad under the tutelage of Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, Iniong had to break the news to her spouse that they would have to postpone their honeymoon.

Her husband gave her his blessings, but set one condition.

"We talked about it, and he told me I need to get the gold medal, so we wouldn’t waste our time. After all, we just got married and here I was, training," Iniong said.

Iniong kept her promise as she brought home the gold medal, defeating Thailand's Apichaya Mingkhwan in the finals of the women's 55kg kick light category.

During the awarding ceremony, Iniong wore a gleeful smile as she saw her husband cheerfully taking photos of her standing atop the podium.

"The nice thing about him is he is very supportive. He totally understands my profession. He even watched me compete in the SEA Games. I am blessed to have him in my life," she shared. –