BACOLOD CITY, Philippines - – The swimmer from the coldest region in the country turned in the hottest performance in the pool as Baguio City’s Jenkins Lorenzo Labao romped off with seven gold medals in the Batang Pinoy National Finals yesterday at Panaad Stadium.
Owner of five mints heading to the last day of swimming hostilities, 15-year-old Labao sustained his charge and annexed the boys’ 13-15 100-meter butterfly (1:02:33) and 200m individual medley (2:21.81) to complete a “Lucky Seven” on Chinese New Year.
The junior at University of Baguio Preparatory High School crowned himself the winningest competitor not just in swimming but in the entire Batang Pinoy tourney.
Not bad for someone whose daily swimming training lasts no longer than an hour in the chilly pool of Baguio’s Athletic Bowl.
“Dahil sa sobrang lamig sa tubig sa Baguio, mga 2-3 degrees, kailangan talaga magtyaga at magsipag (The cold waters in Baguio make it difficult to train in the pool so I really needed to persevere),” said Labao, one of six swimmers the Summer Capital had qualified for the Batang Pinoy Finals.
Labao earlier topped the 400m freestyle, 50m fly, 400m IM, as well as the boys’ 15-U 200m medley and 200m free relays in partnership with Neil Nazarro, Renz Guiller Gawilan, and Dan Christian Leyba.
“Sobrang saya at proud na proud para sa mga taga-Baguio. For first time nag MVP ako sa Batang Pinoy (I share this with all the people of Baguio; it’s an honor to be named MVP of the Batang Pinoy, the first for Baguio),” said five-foot-eight Labao.
Baguio tankers collected 10 golds, five silvers and two bronzes to place second overall behind Quezon, which collared 14 mints, 11 silvers and 11 bronzes, led by triple gold winners Raissa Gavino and Kirsten Chloe Daos.
Bohol’s Ryan Tirol captured five gold medals after ruling the boys 12-and-under 50m back (33.41) and 100m breast (1:15.52) while Manila’s Regina Castrillo and Davao’s Zoe Marie Hilaro finished with four mints each.
Iloilo City’s Crystal AJ Bartonico expertly displayed her arnis skills en route to six golds in anyo (form). Bartonico conquered the single weapon solo performance, double weapon solo performance, sword and dagger solo performance, and was part of the Iloilo’s winning single and double weapon team performance team.
In triathlon, 12-year-old Nicole Eijansantos of Quezon City upstaged her older competitors while tall Julius Constantino of Sta. Rosa, Laguna topped the boys’ side.
Eijansantos covered the 400m swim, 8.4K bike, 2K run race in 29 minutes, 50 seconds to beat Biñan, Laguna’s Lauren Justine Plaza (30:05) and Olongapo’s Victoria Deldio (30:39) for the plum.
“Age doesn’t matter,” said Eijansantos. “They’re saying being younger, you have no chance to win against them. So I challenged myself to beat older rivals.”
Five-foot-nine Constantino submitted a winning time of 27:00 to beat Frederick Albert “Yuan” Chiongbian of Cebu City ( 27:34) and Sam Ranque of Cainta (27:49).
Notes: Participants in the 3-on-3 basketball competitions got an added motivation to showcase their skills as the best eight boys and best eight girls will be selected to go to the US for the Basketball Sports Visitor Program from Mar. 11-24 in Washington DC. The program is under the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the US Embassy to Phl, which will fund the trip.