During this year’s Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Team Philippines is on a mission to show 10 other teams in 38 sports what a heart of a champion can achieve. Here are five distinct, hardworking, and talented athletes who are on that mission:
KOBE PARAS (BASKETBALL)
Who would’ve thought that the 6’6’’ basketball phenom once developed his skills during one of the Jr. NBA’s annual training camps? At an early age, Kobe Paras worked hard to perfect every corner of his game, including his mindset towards achieving his long-term basketball goals.
After making waves abroad because of his jaw-dropping court skills, Paras is back home to represent. With him on the Gilas Cadets roster, fans can expect a good amount length and quickness to go against other powerhouse teams.
NIKKO HUELGAS (TRIATHLON)
When it comes to the sport of triathlon, it’s the name Nikko Huelgas ringing inside the heads of many sports fans. As the current captain of the Philippine National Triathlon Team, Huelgas has posted a long list of achievements for him, and country. In fact just days ago, he extended his list by winning gold at the men’s triathlon event at the start of the SEA Games. That’s two years in a row for the captain.
Huelgas owes his accomplishments to an impeccable work ethic he’s developed for years. Training six times a week in all three disciplines for hundreds of miles each day is no easy task, but the multiple-time champion embraces the grind – consistently progressing as one of the nation’s role models.
ALYSSA VALDEZ (VOLLEYBALL)
Don’t let her famous smile fool you. Being on the receiving end of an Alyssa Valdez assault translates into all sorts of trouble. When she was just the college star of the UAAP, Valdez would create problems for defenders because of her hard-hitting spikes and leaping ability. Her talent would eventually transition into the pro-leagues as she continued to emerge as an offensive threat even to more experience players.
Valdez joins other respectable talent in their quest to reclaim Asian volleyball glory at the 2017 SEA Games. Will her offensive firepower be enough to outlast neighboring countries?
MARY JOY TABAL (TRIATHLON)
After collapsing to the ground during her first 10-kilomter run, Mary Joy Tabal made it her lifelong goal to exceed her limits each day. After working extremely hard, Tabal has become a record-breaking marathon runner and an inspiring Olympian.
But like most athletes, her success story wasn’t smooth as she was met with a controversial expulsion from the national team leading to last year’s Rio Olympics. Fortunately, she’s found her way back to the team and ready to represent the flag.
Glory would come during the first day of this year’s SEA Games as Tabal beat everyone to the finish line at the marathon event, taking her first SEA Games gold hardware home. And just like that, she’s proven to everyone and herself that no challenge is too big – especially in the road to glory.
KIRSTIE ELAINE ALORA (TAEKWONDO)
For most of her early life, Kirstie Elaine Alora was the target of school bullies who took her allowance and food. To defend herself, Alora decided to take up Taekwondo lessons in her school in Laguna.
Those lessons would go a long way in Alora’s life as she was sent to compete in many local and international tournaments. Just last year, Alora was part of the country’s Rio Olympics contingent. This SEA Games, the high-kicking martial artist keeps her eyes on the prize as she looks to bring home a medal for the country.