For everyone who attended the Alaska IronKids event in Cebu, it became immediately clear that, for a sport designed for solo participants, the majority of triathletes had the best possible support systems on their sides: the love of their families.
According to Coach Eustaquio “Stax” Savellano, Alaska IronKids isn’t just about the kids taking part – for the majority of them, it’s a true family affair, one in which everybody played a role, regardless of whether or not they actually trained alongside their young triathletes (though there are those who do).
All throughout the week of Alaska IronKids, with their children balancing excitement and anticipation, you could see them: parents who may not have been athletes themselves, diligently checking to see if transition packs were complete, conferring with mechanics if bikes were in proper working order, even keeping an eye on their kids’ diets! The full-on support on display didn’t have to come from a degree in sports or an athletic career; these parents were here because they wanted to be, taking the time to be present for their kids during this important time in their lives.
Savellano said that for the kids, the interest of their parents in their chosen sport was a powerful motivator, playing a role in their Alaska IronKids performance, whether it was just stopping by their training sessions or them making time to attend their races.
There are, of course, those who actually handle their kids’ training themselves, as in the case of Ringo Borlain and his daughters, Sam, Tara, and Chezka, while others still trained alongside their kids while preparing for their own races.
The important thing to keep in mind is to remember that this is the kids’ race, not their own. Coach Avellano laughs, “Parents are more excited! The kids are there to play! …you have to balance the excitement, and of course, the training for the kids. If you don’t let them play, I don’t think they will come back the next day…once the training is fun, they don’t want to go home!”
For parents like multiple-IronMan-winner Noy Jopson, he says that his kids, Mikela and Rafa have been racing because it’s something they find fun, and not just because their daddy does it.
This isn’t to say that the road to becoming a triathlete is easy; training for the three-tiered sport requires hard work and discipline, and that’s another crucial area where the parents’ contribution comes in. If the kids feel they have their parents’ support – as opposed to pressure – they will be more motivated to do their very best come race day.
In the years since Alaska IronKids was launched in the Philippines, the event has only grown larger. “Last year, I think there are less than 200 kids, but this year, there are more than 400 kids,” Savellano told PlayPH. “Everybody, all the faces, were so happy, from the parents, down to the kids…everybody who finished the race – look at their faces..it spells all the difference.”
Indeed, being an IronKid isn’t about climbing a podium or winning a trophy – It’s about knowing within yourself that you made the effort to try. “There’s a saying that says, ‘finishing is winning,” says Savellano. “If you don’t win, as long as you finish, you’re a winner! All you have to do is the first step. Then, I’ll see you in the finish line.’
For the 400 kids who ran on that August day, nearly all of whom finished, their hard work had paid off, and having their families there to cheer them on from the finish line just made their sense of accomplishment all the sweeter.