Triathlon is considered as one of the toughest endurance sports mankind has ever developed.
A standard triathlon race is composed of 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike capped by a 10 kilometer run, easily, not for the faint-hearted.
In the Philippines, a young lady named Kim Mangrobang is currently the highest-rated triathlete and is considered as one of the country’s bets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mangrobang was initially introduced to the sport of swimming at the age of nine but was later on convinced by a coach from the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP) that she could become a competitive triathlete.
‘Nakita kasi ng isang coach noon na mahina ako sa swimming pero mabilis ako tumakbo for my age,’ said Mangrobang. “So nung sinubukan ko yung triathlon nagtuloy-tuloy na din hanggang sa age na 13, kinuha na ako ng TRAP.”
Every competition here abroad was like playtime for Mangrobang, making it easier for her not to miss whatever typical kids usually enjoy as youngsters.
“Everytime may tournament kasi or travel abroad, para lang kasi nasa field trip kasi nga mga bata din kasabay ko,” said Mangrobang.
“But everything changed nung nanalo ako ng isang event and then nakita ko kinakanta na yung national anthem. Nasabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘seryoso pala ito.’ Since then naisip ko para din pala sa Pilipinas itong ginagawa ko,” added a proud Mangrobang.
During her younger years, the San Pedro, Laguna native Mangrobang was believed to have been influenced by her province’s proud product Abet Alon Alon, the many-time national champion who later on became a national team coach.
“Kim was still very young when we saw her and karamihan kasi sa mga triathletes natin noon were from Laguna so si Kim, isa yan sa mga natangay noon ni Alon Alon,” said TRAP President Tom Carrasco.
Recently, the 27-year-old Mangrobang finished seventh overall in the tough Asian Games meet during a hot and humid competition day in Jakarta, Indonesia.
A lot was expected from Mangrobang in the Asiad event as she was coming off a gold winning performance in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
While Mangrobang knew within herself that she was at her best entering the Jakarta meet, she eventually realized she went up against more seasoned triathletes, giving her enough reason to double her efforts in her upcoming training in Portugal.
“Masayang-masaya na rin po ako sa naging resulta ng laro ko. Nag-training kami ng mahirap para dito pareho ng mga kalaban. Lahat nag-handa. Pakiramdam na lang kung sino ang mas maganda na lang sa araw ng laro,” said Mangrobang.
Carrasco, while not contented with the Asiad performance of Mangrobang, would not complain about the result.
This as Japanese bet Yuko Takahashi essentially broke every competitor’s spirits by pulling away right at the very start of the race.
“She did not have a good race that day. Sa swim pa lang talagang lumayo na yung Japanese so milya milya na din layo sa bike kahit na nag-effort si Kim na dumikit pero malayo na talaga yung Japanese,” said Carrasco.
After her Asian Games stint, Mangrobang immediately flew to Portugal which has been the destination of Filipino triathletes the last couple of years.
“Malapit ka na sa Europe so yung training mo and exposure sa Euro Cup and African Cup, that’s the maximum level na makukuha natin. Euro Cup is equivalent to the World Cup,” said Carrasco.
In Portugal, Mangrobang and the rest of the Philippine members are being trained by veteran triathlon coach Sergio Santos.
“Nagustuhan ko yung style ni Sergio, one of the best coaches ng ITU racing, yung Olympic distance racing. Sergio handles the national team of Brazil and Portugal,” added Carrasco.
Meantime, Mangrobang is hell bent on claiming a spot in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics by joining the World Cup event this October on Tongyeong, Korea and the Japan ITU World Cup on November 10 in Miyazaki, Japan.
“Parang sa Triathlon, sa gitna ng karera ang mahirap pero hindi ka dapat sumuko kaya talagang gusto ko na mag-qualify sa Tokyo Olympics,” said Mangrobang.
(Photos by Ali Vicoy)