A tale of 2 Pinay athletes
By Lito Cinco January 09,2020
I GUESS I can consider myself lucky last December because I had a chance to talk to two pretty female elite athletes in the person of equestrienne Toni Leviste and Southeast Asian Games wushu double gold medalist Agatha Wong and even as they shared the same passion for their respective sports, it seems they do not share the same future plans.
Taking the case of Toni, who even as our athletes were shining at the 30th SEA Games here, she was also doing her share by leading the PH team to a come-from-behind silver medal finish in the FEI Asian Equestrian Championship in Thailand early December and shared her future plans saying she is definitely staying in her sport.
And the fuel that drives her extended stay in the sport is her dream of an Olympic gold medal. Sounds impossible but then that is the reality for this lady who is the longest serving national athlete in an Olympic sport spanning over 30 years since the time she joined her first competition at 11 years old in a Philippines-Hong Kong dual meet.
Toni told me that in the sport of equestrian, the older you are and the more experienced you are, you become better and that is where she feels she is right now, much better than she was 10, 15 years ago. Truth is she has already qualified once in the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, aside from riding twice in the World Championships in 2002 and 2018 in Spain and the United States respectively, plus the World Cup in 1999 in Sweden, making her the only ASEAN athlete to have competed in thee three major equestrian competitions.
Year after year she continued, she plans to retire, only to wake up the following day to realize the drive remains within her. Nowadays, no one believes her anymore when she says she will retire from the sport. •I asked her what the sport needs here, knowing fully well that there are two groups involved in the sport, the Equestrian Association of the Philippines, headed by former POC president Peping Cojuangco, and the Equestrian Philippines Inc., led by Carissa Coscoluella. Toni is with the latter group which is more visible in what it is trying to do for the sport, for the EAP of Peping, sorry, but I do not read or hear of its activities. Anyway, Toni is wishing for more senior riders to join her and Joker Arroyo and US-based Colin Syquia.
In equestrian, there are normally four riders in a team event with a throw-away ride privilege, meaning the worst ride will not be counted. For the Philippine team, with only three riders, Toni as anchor as the most experienced, all their rides are counted and in that race in Thailand, she was way behind the others. Toni had to do a faultless ride to win bronze, which she did, but ended up with a silver as the second placed team’s best rider faltered in his ride following Toni, enabling us to get the silver.
Shifting to the younger Agatha whose performance in the SEA Games impressed a lot of fans and I am sure infatuated a lot of males, sports fans or not because of her very pretty face to go with her skills in her chosen sport. She says that right now, she is not looking beyond 2020 for her sport, in short the future in wushu is uncertain though I believe how she will do in her events this year will decide the future. Agatha, who just finished her degree at the College of St. Benilde, plans to do a second course and wants to take up law, and managing her time between law studies and training at a high level will certainly pose a big challenge as she told me after the SEA Games. She will be competing this year in the World Cup in Tokyo and the Asian Championship in India, both top-notch events. •This means that there is the possibility that we won’t see Agatha doing her third SEA Games in 2021 in Vietnam if she decides to give up on wushu, a sport she has been involved in for the last ten years. But Agatha said that she is very happy that after the SEA Games, people got to know her beloved sport better.
Prior to the 30th SEA Games, her biggest challenge though was physical as she had a slipped disc in 2018 and tendonitis on the right knee that even just conditioning herself for the SEAG was difficult already, but as it was in the actual event, it was her discipline that carried this young athlete to overcome all the challenges and win not just one but two gold medals. •And for the first time ever, she said she cried after receiving her medal from PSC chairman Butch Ramirez, realizing what she had accomplished for herself and the country.
By the way, good news for local male fans of Agatha. She is not in a relationship at present so grab your chance to know her more but do not make the mistake of tangling with her. Wushu, after all, is a form of martial arts.
You know what I mean.
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