“It’s a part of life,” says champion triathlete Tara Borlain, on what drives her to excel. “You need to feel what it’s like to have challenges, because without challenges, why are you even here? That’s the best part of life! Challenges make you a better person and help you to learn things.”
At a competition like IronKids 2015, every competitor brings their own stories to the table, their own reasons for signing up. Take, for instance, the account of Gavynne Alcantara, who came half a world away from her California home to take part in the swim portion of the relay competition. The catch? She had only met her teammates, Kenji Tan and Alana Yu the day before. And yet, scant hours later, the three had found themselves fast friends, united in cause and spirit in a way that only teammates can ever really know.
Of course, not everyone had joined to compete. While there were indeed many who signed up with podium dreams, there were also those who were there for the joy of sport.
“For me personally, I want them to get involved, just to get them to appreciate an active lifestyle, and get them away from the house, and just go out there and basically just play and get them away from the gadgets and iPads,” shared 2009 IronMan 70.3 champion Noy Jopson, on the decision to sign his two children, Mikele (aged 9) and Rafa (aged 6) up for IronKids. “Hopefully, if they want to take it to a serious level like what my wife and I have done for over twenty years now, then it’s really up to them. Our job is just to expose them and to encourage and support them in any way we can. We’ll be cheering for these two kiddos!”
Indeed, while family ties were strong motivators for many of the day’s competitors, fun was still very much a part of the narrative, as was the case with 11-year-old Matthew Simsuangco. A first-time IronKids participant, Matthew’s entry into the world of triathlons, care of his triathlete father, Noriel, began almost by accident.
“I just started following him!” laughs Matthew, pointing at his father. Before long, the younger Simsuangco would discover that he could run and swim faster than others in his age group. Soon enough, Matthew was training regularly under his father’s watchful eye.
“I didn’t want it to be too hard on him in terms of training, because I wanted it to be fun,” said Noriel.
For many of the children taking part in IronKids, getting into sports at a young age has granted them attributes many their age (or older) don’t have: the courage to challenge oneself, the desire to excel, the drive to keep on trying, and the faith that allows them to break through their limits.
As competitions like IronKids help to nurture and foster in future champions skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, it’s safe to dream that we can all look forward to a future where the athletes of today will lead the way to a prosperous tomorrow.
There were many stories of triumph sought (and won) from that sunny Saturday morning in Mactan, Cebu. And, if the sheer number of participants (the largest in the competition’s history), were anything to go by, the number of stories will only increase in the years to come.