Kayla Richardson: Running towards an Olympic Dream
MANILA, Philippines - As a youngster growing up in Los Angeles, California, USA, Kayla Richardson was always running around. You know, playing children’s games.
By the age of 7, after beating all the boys she ran against in a race in school, her father, Jeff, realized their potential and took the young girl to try out for a local track team. That put her on the path to higher education and now, an Olympic dream.
The 17-year old Kayla Richardson is one of the Philippines’ top bets for the Rio Olympics, and she had an incredible year in 2015. Days after winning a pair of California Interscholastic Federation track championships as a junior in Walnut High School, she boarded a plane to Singapore and won a gold medal for the Philippines in the 100-meter dash and a silver in the 200-meter dash.
When she returned to the United States following the games, Richardson was named Track and Field Athlete of the Year in her home state.
The Fil-Am who traces her Philippine roots to Zamboanga City is already the fastest woman in Southeast Asia. She knows that the Summer Games are on a completely different level of competition, but that doesn’t mean she won’t chase any golden dreams.
Rappler caught up with Richardson who had just finished competing at the Simplot Games in Idaho, USA, last weekend.
Rappler: Hi, Kayla. Pleased to talk to you. Do tell us something about your background.
Kayla: My mother and father met here in Los Angeles. My mom, Ludivina Siguiente, is from Zamboanga City while my dad, Jeff is from Los Angeles.
My first sports experience was playing volleyball as a kid. I later joined a track team when I was 7 years old after I was able to beat all of the boys in a school race. In spite of that, I still played a lot of volleyball and was named Most Valuable Player during my first two years in high school. After that, I committed to track and field.
So far, my favorite and biggest sports accomplishment is winning the 2015 SEA Games 100m dash. I really did not expect to win so it was a great surprise. I didn't win the 200m so that gives me something to aim for at the next SEA Games.
Rappler: We understand that it took a while for you to compete for the Philippines. What’s the story there?
Kayla: Before the Southeast Asian Games, my dad attempted to contact many people in the Philippines to try to connect me with the Philippine track and field team but they were unsuccessful. He was later contacted by Andrew Pirie who was instrumental in getting us connected with PATAFA.
Rappler: So how has the Philippine experience been for you?
Kayla: Competing for the Philippines is awesome because I have the experience of meeting other Filipinos and learning about Philippine culture. I also have the opportunity to inspire other people my age to achieve their goals and that nothing is impossible if you work hard and sacrifice. I am excited about representing the Philippines and bringing pride and joy to other Filipinos as I compete and try to win for them.
Rappler: Now, there’s that incredible chance of a lifetime to go to the Olympics. How do you size that up?
Kayla: The Rio Olympics will be an opportunity to compete with other great athletes on the highest stage for track and field and it will give me the opportunity to use the experience as a stepping stone to help build a strong Philippine team for the future. It will great if we can send a relay team as well. My goal is to surpass the 100m standard and the 200m standard and compete in both events. We also hope to bring a young team for the 4x100 meter relay as well. – Rappler.com