How Atletang Ayala supports Olympic hopefuls | Inquirer Sports

How Atletang Ayala supports Olympic hopefuls

/ 08:00 AM April 20, 2024

Written by: Pam Pastor

The road to Olympic success—or success at any international sporting competition, really—is not an easy one. Not only do athletes need to focus on their training, they also have so many other things to worry about, including funding.

The Ayala Group of Companies has launched the Atletang Ayala program as a means of offering crucial support to the country’s national athletes.

Atletang Ayala athletes: Andrea Robles, Pia Bidaure, Prince Alejo, Abby Bidaure and Jasmine Alkhaldi —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

“Atletang Ayala’s goal is to provide for the underserved needs of selected national athletes, most especially as they train for international competitions,” said Francisco Romero Milan, Ayala Corp. chair of the Ayala Group HR Council and strategic adviser for human resources.

Operated by the Ayala Center of Excellence in Sports (Aces), the Atletang Ayala program helps athletes in different ways.

For starters, they are given full-salaried employment opportunities with flexible work arrangements so they can continue training for their competitions.

Atletang Ayala athletes—Jasmine Alkhaldi, Pia Bidaure, Prince Alejo, Andrea Robles, and Abby Bidaure—are given full-salaried employment opportunities with flexible work arrangements so they can continue training for their competitions.

They have free access to the Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub (AVSH) in Cavite, a world-class training facility that includes a Fina (International Swimming Federation)-standard Olympic-size swimming pool, a 400-meter track oval built to international standards, and an indoor training facility with a sports science laboratory.

At Sante Fitness Lab at AVSH, the athletes can also avail themselves of the Athletes Health program, a sports health maintenance service by Ayala’s Healthway Medical Network.

ACES also helps athletes with their education in partnership with De La Salle University, to give them free access to academic programs designed to fit their needs and match their hectic schedules.

8 nat’l athletes

Eight national athletes are benefiting from the program at present, each one of them a success story: swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi, archer Andrea Robles (who recently got the Women in Sports award from the Philippine Sports Commission), karateka Prince Alejo, archer Pia Bidaure, swimmer Xiandi Chua, fencer Nathaniel Perez, archer Abby Bidaure, and fencer Noel Jose Jr.

These Atletang Ayala athletes, chosen through a rigorous screening process, are preparing for major competitions both here and abroad, including Olympic qualifiers. Jose is set to compete at the Asia-Oceania Zonal Qualifying Tournament in Dubai next week—an event that will determine if he will make it to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“The success of this program will not necessarily be measured by the number of medals these Atletang Ayala athletes can bring home, but by the number of Filipino athletes that this program can eventually provide the same support to,” said Jaime Z. Urquijo, Aces program lead. Thus, more athletes will eventually be included in the program.

Urquijo added, “We believe strongly that sports can play a unique role in national development, and we are honored within the Ayala Group of Companies to have this opportunity to provide more Filipino athletes the opportunity to pursue their sporting ambitions. Their skill, hard work, discipline, and resilience bring inspiration to all of us as they continue to be a source of national pride and hope for the country.”

Get to know three of the Atletang Ayala athletes:

Abby Bidaure

Archer, AC Motors HR project staff

Abby Bidaure

Archery started as just “a summer thing” for Abby Bidaure, but she soon developed what she calls “a love-hate relationship” with the sport, enjoying the rush of winning and earning medals and bearing the pain of heartbreak and disappointment.

“I stayed because of the thrill I felt whenever I shot an arrow flawlessly and was always reminded of the joy of winning,” she said.

Bidaure, 21, a world-ranked national archer and Southeast Asian Games medalist, also loves that she found her closest friends in the tight-knit local and international archery community. At the SEA Games in 2022, she ranked fourth individually and got gold with the women’s recurve team. “It was the result of all the sweat and tears,” she said.

But, she adds, “What I am most proud of is the learning I have gained throughout this journey. The life lessons are most valuable for me.”

Atletang Ayala has been a big help to Bidaure. “The program has freed me of anxiety whenever I would have to purchase equipment or fund a competition. Along with the financial benefits, being an Atletang Ayala helps me gain work experience despite still being a student. Being with Atletang Ayala has also opened opportunities for us to further our education while being an athlete. The people behind the program have made sure that even as athletes, we are also cultivating professional work careers.”

Her ultimate goal? “To compete at the Olympics. Right now, I am doing my best in training and competing to gain much-needed exposure.”

She’s at the archery range six days a week “with strength and conditioning programs, cardio exercises, psych sessions, and physiotherapy sessions alternatively after the day’s skills training.”

Her advice for aspiring archers? “Always have patience, especially in yourself. In archery, and in fact, in any sport, progress takes time and consistency, so allow yourself to go through every single phase in your sporting career at your own pace.”

Xiandi Chua

Swimmer, works in marketing recruitment at IMI

Xiandi Chua, 22, has always loved being in the water since she was a kid.

The nationally ranked swimmer is a UAAP champion and SEA Games gold, silver, and bronze medalist. She also bagged gold at the 42nd and 43rd SEA Age Group Swimming Championships, after getting silver and bronze wins during the 41st and 40th tournaments.

She said, “Having the opportunity to represent the Philippines on an international stage gives me that sense of pride and joy, more so when the national anthem is sung every time a fellow Filipino wins.”

Last year was a great year for Chua. “I finally won my first ever individual gold medal with a new meet record at the recently concluded Southeast Asian Games. I started to break Philippine national records, swimming my lifetime’s best performances in various events which opened up opportunities for me such as competing in the 2023 World Championships as well as the Asian Games for the very first time.”

She has her eye on the Olympics as well. “Like any other athlete, we all aspire to make the Olympics. Personally, my goal is to continue representing the Philippines in the highest level of competition possible and to bring honor to my country.”

But more than the records and medals, she said, “I’m most proud of overcoming the adversities and challenges I had to face to achieve these goals. Being able to bounce back from a long series of failures and disappointments was extremely difficult for me. Refusing to give up and to be able to go back out there to keep fighting is what I’m most proud of.”

Having a good support system is essential for athletes, she said. “I wouldn’t be able to perform the way I did without all the support surrounding me. This goes to show how important it is to be surrounded with the right support system who are always there for you regardless of the outcome.”

Part of her support system is Atletang Ayala. “Atletang Ayala provides its athletes holistic support which enables us to develop both our sports and professional careers at the same time. In this program, I am able to gain firsthand experience of what it’s like to work in a corporate setting… I was given the opportunity to be immersed in an environment that provides competitiveness and excellence in swimming.

“They provide access to necessary resources such as sporting facilities, prehab, and strength and conditioning programs, healthcare, etc. which are significant to my overall performance as an athlete. I’ve never come across a program that supports Filipino athletes like this and I am honored and grateful to be a part of it.”

Prince Alejo

Karateka, SLTEC associate

Prince Alejo

Prince Alejo was first drawn to karate while watching practitioners in a public school. He wanted to join, but money was a hurdle. “I didn’t have the capability to buy the training uniform and to pay for training sessions,” he said.

Spotting his potential, the coach allowed him to join, telling Alejo he could just wear any sports attire while practicing. And that’s how a champion was born.

Alejo was always driven to succeed, and had the desire “for everyone to remember my name and know where I started from.”

“I chose karate because its number one value is to respect others,” he said. “I’m not training to be a champion, I’m training to be a better person.”

The community is what he loves the most about karate. “Because we all started from dreaming, then that dream grows and eventually you will have younger athletes looking up to you. The spirit of a great karateka is passed on for centuries and this will never die as long as the fire in the athlete’s heart is pure.”

At 22, Alejo is one of the youngest national athletes on the team. Another accomplishment he’s proud of? “Keeping my streak as an 8th time National Champion, because I am one of the few who completed being a champion in all categories—Cadet, Juniors, U21, and Seniors.”

He trains twice a day every single day. This champ has a lot of goals and dreams, including a podium finish at the 2025 Thailand SEA Games. “The ultimate goal is to make it to the top 32 of the world rankings in order to try and qualify for the 2028 LA Olympics.”

Atletang Ayala supports those dreams and more.

“Atletang Ayala is committed to supporting both my athletic endeavors and professional endeavors. The partnership with various companies assures that we can perform at our peak performance. I’m also getting exposure in the corporate world,” said Alejo.

His advice for aspiring athletes? “Hard work beats talent every time.”


TAGS: Atletang Ayala, Ayala Group of Companies, BrandRoom

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