NCR star swimmer Ilustre set to conquer in Palaro 2017

Alexx Esponga
NCR star swimmer Ilustre set to conquer in Palaro 2017
The game plan for Ilustre stays the same this year: collect medals and break records

ANTIQUE, Philippines – Swimmer on fire.

In a sea of talented athletes from 18 regions at the Palarong Pambansa 2017, it’s difficult to stand out consistently.

But year after another, Maurice Sacho Ilustre proves he’s got the right stuff to make a splash.

The National Capital Region (NCR) bet Ilustre slayed the opposition at the Palarong Pambansa and dominated all his events as he took home 7 gold medals last year.

He will try to replicate that performance at Palaro 2017 as the 17-year old swimmer is eyeing to rule in all his 7 scheduled events in the largest multi-sporting event in the country.

“I’m optimistic about winning this year,” Ilustre, who is competing for the last time in the Palaro, said. “But I’m not getting complacent or overconfident. I just believe that I can do it.”

True enough, the game plan for Ilustre stays the same: collect medals and break records.

Burning for more

“I did well in my first event (400-meter Freestyle) and won my first gold this Palaro,” said the 5-foot-8 swimmer Ilustre. “I think the fire ignited already. Now, I just have to keep it burning.”

During the first day of the Palarong Pambansa Swimming Tournament at the Binirayan Swimming Pool, Ilustre grabbed two gold medals and broke his own record last 2015 in the 200-meter Butterfly event with two minutes and 4 seconds.

“I gave my best,” Ilustre said. “I’m happy that I broke my own record. Hopefully, I could also do more in my games.”

Gloria, the mother of Sacho, said her son could’ve broken the record in the 400-meter Freestyle event, if only his training had been better.

“I feel proud and thankful that he’s done it again,” said a proud Gloria in an interview with Rappler. “But his training wasn’t that rigid, and I’m sure he knows why.”

She explained Sacho is currently recovering not from an injury but a recent heartbreak. “He’s really getting older. He had a girlfriend before but they broke up and hopefully, he could recover soon.”

The heat and lack of facilities like a cool down pool, also hurt his chances of setting a new record in his first event, she says.

“He hasn’t fully recovered because he was able to beat the current record in the 400-m Freestyle before. That’s not his personal best and I think it’s because of the lack in training,” said Gloria.

Raised in a family of swimmers, Sacho feels pressured but is persevering to convert it into a motivation.

“My dad was a swimmer, he also competed in the Palaro and UAAP. He is also my coach,” shared Ilustre, who’s also making a name for himself as he plays for the De La Salle Zobel in the country’s premiere collegiate league. “My sisters were also Palaro swimmers before. They’re my inspiration.”

Entering the Palaro when he was in Grade 5, Ilustre believes that the more achievements he receives, he needs to double up his efforts and push himself harder.

“I just need to focus and be more determined than before,” shared Ilustre.

The ultimate goal

The Palarong Pambansa is only a stepping stone for star athlete Ilustre as he is focused on conquering greater heights.

“Hopefully, I’ll be going to De La Salle University for college,” said the incoming Grade 12 student Ilustre.”My dream is to compete in the Olympics someday.”

For Ilustre, being in the Palarong Pambansa isn’t all about the shiny medals.

“As a Filipino, student and athlete, it’s a huge thing that I could inspire other people. When they approach me and wish me good luck or tell me that I inspire them, it feels so good. That’s actually my ultimate goal,” Ilustre said.

In his 6 years competing in the Palaro, Ilustre learned one thing and this has kept him winning all throughout these years, “Consistency. Ever since, I’ve been learning and training, so if you try to be consistent in giving your best and all every time, people are going to start noticing you. They will be inspired.” –

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