MANILA, Philippines—Hanniel Abella made quite the sacrifice for flag and country ahead of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The 26-year-old fencer quit her job in the human resources department of a fast-food company in February, to put her complete focus on the SEA Games. She had been working there for four years.
On Saturday, her decision paid off as Abella anchored the Philippines' sensational victory over Singapore in the finals of the women's team epee, giving them the team crown for the first time ever in the SEA Games.
"Hindi pa nagsi-sink in sa akin," said Abella. "I'm very, very happy. Ginawa namin ito hindi para maging historic 'yung pagkapanalo namin. Ginawa namin ito because we want to deliver for the Philippines."
Abella, who fell to her knees in an emotional celebration after scoring the team's 45th point, made it clear that she was not the only one to make sacrifices for the squad.
"Talagang we work hard for this, we prepared for this at marami sa amin nagsakripisyo ng school, ng work, time for our families, so we deliver medals for the Philippines," she said.
"Sobrang saya. Worth it lahat ng pinaghirapan namin the past one and a half years ng pagre-ready."
Making their triumph all the more sweet for Abella was that she outwitted Singapore's Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman in the ninth round, the same fencer who relegated her to the silver medal in the individual epee competition.
Abella, together with Harlene Raguin, Anna Gabriella Estimada and Mickyle Bustos, delivered the second gold medal of the SEA Games for the Philippine fencing team after Jylyn Nicanor ruled the individual sabre.
"This will be memorable for me. I should have retired but they asked me to come back to help the team. This is a very good exit for me," said the 36-year-old Raguin.
Abella now has a gold medal to bring home to her mother, who initially questioned her decision to quit her job.
"It was super difficult," she said. "I had to talk to my mom, para pumyag siya. Noong una, hindi niya maintindihan, but later on nag-support naman siya."
"Sabi niya, 'Why will you give up something important?'" she added. "But winning a gold medal for the Philippines is much more important."
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