Spunky sisters act
“Do you think you can do it?” the coach tenderly asks his youngest ward, who then nods and sprints off with two other girls in the track oval.
It’s like any other training day for the Borlain sisters—Samantha, 14; Tara, 13; and Franchezka, 9—and the coach who just happens to be their dad.
“Our dad has always been gentle,” Tara says of their father Ringo, a former champion bodybuilder. “He makes sure that when we do something, we can do it. He doesn’t want us to get burned out.”
Gentle, though, doesn’t mean less gruelling. Hours of dedicated training has turned the Borlain girls into champion triathletes. They’ve ruled their age groups for several years, usually conquering the 400m swim-12K bike-3K run distance in under 50 minutes.
“He’s still a father to us in training; it’s just that he has a different approach,” says Samantha, who’s nicknamed Sam. “He’s more disciplined but not necessarily more strict.
“We just feel that our father is the right coach for us because he knows us best,” adds Sam. “I think it’s an advantage because our father has been with us since we were kids. And since he’s at home, he gets to monitor what we eat, when we sleep. He knows our work in school, he knows how to balance it. Like if we have homework, he knows when to cut our training shorter. It’s an advantage because our father is there with us 24/7.”
The result: an impressive collection of medals. But the Borlains are not wont to make a big deal of their achievements.
“We just drop them (medals) on the table,” Tara says with a laugh. “We don’t display them, we don’t like showing off. It’s so embarrassing because you know people can do better than you.”
Sam echoes her sister’s sentiments: “It’s just an item that won’t make a difference. The thing that will make a difference is you as a person. Like how much have you grown even if you have so many medals, how much as a person did you change. It’s not the medal that counts, it’s who you are after you’ve achieved those.”
And this is what makes dad Ringo and mom Caroline, an accountant, proud. Their young sports achievers, who also excel academically at De La Salle Zobel in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, remain very much grounded.
“Of course, we want them to win, but it’s really their character that’s more important,” says Ringo, a physical education professor at De La Salle University and a coach at DLSZ.
The girls, though, always give their parents a lot of credit. “Our mom is more on the academic side; she helps us in everything we need in school,” says Sam. “Our father is more into the sports and discipline side.”
While the girls take their sport seriously, competing hasn’t consumed them. “I’m having fun and I love it,” says Chezka, Franchezka’s nickname.
“Triathlon is the sport that brings our family together,” says Sam. “It’s bonding for us, it helps us get disciplined, and at the same time, it’s also fun for us.”
“We get to meet new people,” adds Tara. “Even if we compete against them, we still learn to be friends with them after. And that’s one thing you learn—sportsmanship. You become disciplined and you’re happy with what you do.”
But as sisters in one sport, the Borlains know it’s inevitable to get compared. Yet the girls maintain that “it’s not an issue.”
“There are no jealousy problems,” says Tara. “We’re not competitors, but we’re family, even in the toughest times.”
“We don’t mind if people compare who’s better,” says Sam. “In the end we’re still sisters and it’s just fun for us to bond through triathlon. It’s not like, ‘I’m better than you.’ There’s just the love and the bond.”
Sam and Tara, in fact, even relish the moments they get to race against each other. In last year’s Alaska IronKids Philippines, the Borlains posted a 1-2 finish in the 13-14 age group, with the younger Tara winning over Sam by 26 seconds with a time of 46 minutes and 31 seconds. Chezka also ruled the girls’ 6-8 age bracket.
“We prefer competing against each other because we get to push each other more,” says Tara. “I feel happier when we compete together.”
Sam agrees: “I get the extra boost. We don’t see each other as competitors. We see each other as someone who can help you, push you and support you throughout the race.”
There’s an apparent sibling revelry among them, so it’s no surprise that the Borlains have been living their young, charmed lives just the way they want it.
As Sam says: “Our parents make sure that we get the balanced life that we need so we don’t feel that we’re missing out on something. Plus, if you love something, it doesn’t feel like you have to sacrifice.”