SEAG debacle aftermath: Young Aklanon’s big splash must not be in vain
The shaming of the country’s swimmers in the recent Southeast Asian Games is a poignant reminder of how the country’s national federation in the sport has missed out on opportunities to climb out of the rut.
The pain of futility is palpable. People are still fuming days after Filipino swimmers again failed to land any of the 38 gold medals staked in the sport in Kuala Lumpur. The damning result must surely be gnawing at the collective conscience of those who run swimming here.
What has happened to the many pool talents who were discovered in the countryside? Where are they now? Did they ever become members of the national team?
We can only cross our fingers that the feats of a new batch of prodigious splashers like Kyla Soguilon of Aklan will not escape the attention of talent scouts.
Athletes like Kyla come few and far between. Unlike Eric Buhain and Akiko Thomson, two former national champions from well-to-do families who both quickly rose to prominence under the tutelage of the country’s finest coaches, Kyla faced a sea of difficulty in order to get noticed.
But thanks to the Milo Little Olympics, her journey for a berth on future national teams will now be easier.
The 12-year-old three-time Milo Athlete of the Year honoree of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) scooped up seven gold medals and clinched the Most Outstanding Swimmer award in the recent Visayas regional finals of the 22nd Milo Little Olympics at the Cebu City Aquatics Center.
Ranged against stronger swimmers in the high school division for the first time, Kyla rewrote meet records in the 100m and 200m backstroke. She also won the gold in the 100 and 200 butterfly, 100 and 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley.
“I was nervous because I faced opponents who were more experienced,” said Kyla, a freshman at Regional Science High School for Region VI in Kalibo. “But I am very thankful everything went well.”
She clocked two minutes and 39.60 seconds to erase the 200m backstroke record of 2:40.00 set by Iloilo’s Mary Louise Lacson in 2016.
The daughter of Kokoy and Victoria Ong Soguilon then smashed the 100m record with a clocking of 1:12.42, well inside Lacson’s old mark of 1:12.94.
Kyla snatched 11 gold medals when she last competed in the elementary division last year.
“She is a dedicated and passionate swimmer,” Kokoy said of her daughter. “She eats healthy, sleeps well, works hard and trains hard. She never gives up.”
Kyla shared the spotlight in Cebu with Michael Lozada, a sixth grader at Infant Jesus Academy, also in Kalibo, who won 10 gold medals.
Kyla got herself into swimming after accompanying his brother Kobe to pool sessions as therapy for his hip bone scoliosis.
Like many of the country’s finest swimmers before her, Kyla rose to prominence in the Palarong Pambansa, twice bagging the best swimmer plum.
Unlike her, however, many pool talents from the provinces tend to deteriorate, and become victims of protracted disputes in a local sport which has not seen its titular head, Mark Joseph, for the longest time.
Imagine what, with more specialized training, Kyla and the other prodigies from the grassroots like her can do in the future to help the country’s team avoid disrepute.
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