For decades, Filipino athletes have proven that they can hold their own against the world’s best. A key component to this legacy lies in our willingness to introduce our young to the world of sports, helping to shape the stars of tomorrow.
Today, two Filipino prodigies have made headlines on the global stage, surprising everyone, not just with their talent, but with their ages: these two up-and-comers are in their teens – 16-year old Mia Meagey Niñura and 13-year old Kai Sotto.
Fresh from claiming the first Gold of this year’s Palarong Pambansa, the Digos City native Niñura did more than best her competitors at the secondary girls 3,000 meter event – she finished with an impressive 10:03.4 time, breaking last year’s record of 10:10.6. Motivated by her parents (a farmer and a housewife) and her coach, Niñura couldn’t help but break down in tears after she bagged her first Gold in 6 years of participating in the event.
“I wanted to win in order to give back to my coach,” said the emotional Niñura. “Even though I’m an only child, I can see their hard work and sacrifices, that’s why I do my best.”
Having participating for 6 years in the Palarong Pambansa, Mia Meagey Niñura bags her first Gold in the secondary girl’s 3,000 meter running event. (rappler.com)
Soon after winning the Gold, Niñura received recruitment offers from universities in America, specifically the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of South Carolina (USC). UCLA’s Filipino-American coach William Perri Enzo personally contacted Niñura’s coach Maylene Quimque, telling her that he saw potential in the young Niñura as she trailed behind rival Jian Calis in their last race. Niñura also received an offer from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
In the case of Kai Sotto, son of former PBA player Ervin Sotto, he doesn’t really need to do much to turn heads. Standing at 6-foot-9 at 13-years of age, he was hard to miss, towering alongside his fellow athletes at the Alaska Jr. NBA camp.
Standing at 6-foot-9, the 13-year old son of former PBA player Ervin Sotto, Kai, is already displaying signs of a promising future. (spin.ph)
Still growing and with a lot of years to further his game, Sotto dreams of one day becoming the first homegrown Filipino to play in the NBA.
“I want to reach the NBA,” said Sotto in an interview with SPIN.ph. “That’s my dream. That’s the ultimate league for me. I want to follow the footsteps of NBA players since they are the creme dela crème.”
Also speaking with SPIN.ph, Sotto’s father, Ervin, said that he hopes (with the help of sponsors) to be able to send his prodigious son to the US or Europe in the future to be exposed and trained at a more competitive level.
“That’s where I really want to bring him,” said Ervin. “So hopefully I could send him there soon since the competition there is tougher. That’s where he could really develop.”
While it may yet be years before Niñura and Sotto become stars on the global sporting stage, it’s certainly safe to say that they’ve already found a way to shine. Whether they choose to remain in the Philippines or go abroad in pursuit of their passions, we will all as witnesses as their lights grow bigger and brighter – lights that will signal even brighter days for the future of Philippine sports.