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Behind picture-perfect wins

By Marga Ancheta, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 05, 2024 5:00 am

A picture-perfect finish. Blood rushing to one’s ears. Adrenaline. These are what come to mind when we think of a winning moment. But behind that one moment of glory are weeks, months and years of work just to participate in a competition.

Young STAR interviewed Gene Heart Quiambao, 2021 National Duathlon Champion, and Porsha Mangilit, the first female 4WD GT Tamiya Asia Cup Champion, about their respective sports and the story behind their own picture-perfect winning moment.

It’s hard to be consistent, but it’s what helped me win that race.

YOUNG STAR: Why did you choose to compete in your field?

GENE HEART QUIAMBAO: I started as a swimmer when I was 12 and I’ve always liked running, so I started doing aquathlon races. I met Coach Ani (de Leon-Brown), the head of the national (triathlon) team, and our squad, thenextsteptri. They recruited me; that’s when I started doing triathlons. It’s an accomplishment even just to finish the sport itself. It’s really hard to swim, bike, then run.

Gene Heart Quiambao trains for triathlons with the Olympics in mind.

PORSHA MANGILIT: My dad inspired me to start. He was playing (RC racing) even before I was born, and it became this bonding moment for us. I got into it mga nine years old. I always went with him when he practiced on the different tracks, so I got to see it and observe.

Tell us what it felt like to win. What were the thoughts racing in your mind?

HEART: It always feels surreal. Even if you really train for this specific event, you don’t often get the results you want. In all the races that I did, very unexpected ‘yung results. Wala akong natantsa na “I could win this.” I don’t put expectations on myself. Pero syempre, (there are) people who believe in me, they put a lot of expectations and that’s when all the pressure kicks in. I get more motivated when I win, but most importantly when I inspire other people, especially the younger generation. Kasi triathlons, ‘di siya super kilala. So I’m glad now in our generation, mas nagiging wide yung connections namin with other people.

PORSHA: Maybe disbelief. During (the first day of the Tamiya Asia Cup), I started badly. My dad wasn’t there and usually siya yung mechanic ko, but I came there alone. I was almost last. The next day, two qualis in, I couldn’t make any mistakes anymore. I was thinking I wanted to finish at least a run. For race day, we have three runs, best two out of three. Nung unang race, I only (placed) second. So again, I was backed up against a wall. ‘Yung second and third, naipanalo ko siya (at) napanalo ko ‘yung competition.

Porsha Mangilit wins the Tamiya Asia Cup.

What does your win mean to you and the community you’re part of?

HEART: Whenever I race, it’s for the people who believe in me, especially my sponsors. ‘Yun ‘yung mine-make sure ko, na I don’t let people down. For myself, it just feels nice to win kasi I’ve been training a lot ever since and I sacrifice a lot of things. For the community, the thing that touched me was the one I had with my sponsor, the Pho3nix Foundation. We were planning to do this run for the Aeta community, like a run clinic in Clark. Siguro ‘yun ‘yung pinakanilolook forward ko—hindi lang ‘yung community around tri, but also ‘yung mga people na wala talagang knowledge about it.

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A post shared by Gene Quiambao (@geneheartq)

PORSHA: It’s historic, kasi this sport is male-dominated. Sa competition na sinalihan namin sa Thailand, (the females were) just me and a 10-year-old girl. No girl has won the Tamiya Asia Cup yet for 20+ years. I think it’s one for the books din because at least they know someone from the Philippines can win it.

Now that you have won, where do you go from here?

HEART: Me and my coach always make sure na long-term kami, no burnouts. We just want to enjoy the process, but at the same time, in our minds, our goal is the Olympics. I know it’s hard for us, especially the people in Asia kasi there’s a lot of visa restrictions and the funding. Pero I think our federation helps with that. The support of the (Triathlon Association of the Philippines) talaga, grabe.

PORSHA: For me, short term, (the Tamiya World Championship in) Japan. In terms of my time as an amateur, I think I’ve come full circle. I’ve been joining this competition for all this time, and I think I’ve done the big goal as an amateur. Whether there’s potential to be a professional, it’s yet to be seen because it’s a small community. It’s a very competitive industry din. When I joined, mostly my goal revolved around what I could do as an amateur kasi feeling ko it’s not gonna be my full-time job. Pero who knows?

What message do you have for people who are still waiting for their wins, whether it’s competitions or milestones in their lives?

HEART: Just always believe in yourself. It’s normal to have downfalls, but it’s always about how you handle things and get back up. That’s what makes the difference. Believe in yourself, like how much other people believe in you.

PORSHA: Achieving something big takes a lot of time. Those people you see who win a lot and have achieved these big goals, they’ve spent years trying to perfect their craft and trying to be better every year. What’s important is that you don’t stop until you achieve it. It’s hard to be consistent, but it’s what helped me win that race.