The SEA Games as a metaphor for life for Toledo and others
Can sports be a metaphor for life? I don’t know about you, but we find the comparison acceptable.
If we didn’t treat sports like life itself stripped down to the same human qualities—fear, luck, poise, grit, teamwork, grace or disgrace under pressure—we would not be writing this column every week.
With this in mind, we leave you with your own evidence of real life and life’s moments displayed during the 30th Southeast Asian Games that ended as it began—in spectacular fashion—Wednesday night.This corner’s biased pick as the saga to remember is that of a hobbled Aries Toledo and his determination and bravery to repeat as the multination meet’s toughest athlete.
The choice was easy. Toledo’s late paternal grandfather, Arthur, was our boyhood buddy in Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. An oft-repeated line about our hometown and its rice land glory is that it is where culture is cultivated and hell is raised.
Although nursing a hamstring injury, the 25-year old Toledo held off Vietnam’s Van Suu Vuy with “seeming ease” to retain the SEA Games decathlon crown at New Clark City Athletic Center.
Toledo told me that despite aches and pains, he remained composed while competing in the 10 grueling events of the decathlon competition.
The mango did not fall far from the tree, observed Cuyapo native Emmanuel Tamase, a Manila-based lawyer. “Si Arthur ang original na taong bato.” (Arthur was the original hardy guy).
In our youth, Aries’ lolo excelled in basketball and track and was unfazed and unmoved by the opposition.
Growing up in a tough Cuyapo neighborhood called Kambal, Aries dreamed of becoming a teacher to free his family from poverty. But fate intervened while he was a student at Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in nearby Muñoz town.
As a member of CLSU’s athletics team, Aries was discovered by Sean Guevara, a multievents coach of the national sports association for athletics. And the rest was history.
Aries’ growth as a decathlon specialist was fast and furious. The 5-foot-10, 152-lb athlete said that under Guevara’s tutelage, he won two national open championships. Seasoned by a few international events, Aries stood out during his premiere appearance at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017 where he emerged the best-all-around athlete of the subcontinental Olympics.
At the Asian Games in Indonesia last year, Aries failed to suit up due to a sore right elbow. At the SEA Games this year, he sustained a hamstring injury 10 days before competition but the “taong bato” bailed himself from trouble.
Aries has left school to join the Air Force. The gold-medal incentive he earned in Kuala Lumpur enabled him to improve his parents’ Kambal shack.
With his financial reward this year, he will build a house with live-in partner Cynthia, a former overseas Filipino worker who is expecting their second child in February.