Seven student athletes who go full throttle on and off the court

Interviews by Anton Tablante and Jam Pascual
Photos by Cru Camara

 

No one seems to believe student athletes when they say that the stakes are equally high on and off the court, but it’s true.

It’s an interesting position to be in, for sure. As a student athlete with a necessarily active lifestyle, your time is (ideally) evenly split between your education, and being in the thick of your competition, where muscle and sinew and sheer force of will struggle in tandem to reach victory. Living that kind of life means constantly bringing your A game in everything you do, testing your limits in the youthful spirit of competition, and becoming better than who you were the day before.

Here, we recognize the character and achievements of student athletes who are making great strides in their sport, and looking good while they’re at it, embodying a #MyStyleMyRules kind of lifestyle. We decked them out in colorful threads by Italian sportswear brand Ellesse, whose form-and-function realness you can now find here in Manila.

Yssa Pogiongko •  Swimmer, University of the Philippines

Even after winning five medals in the recently concluded UAAP Season 81, Yssa Pogiongko’s still hungry for more. Competitive swimming has been a process for her — getting better year after year.

Her love for the sport stems from her family. Her parents were both swimmers for the Philippine national team in their youth, and her brother also currently swims for UP. “My family ties really pushed me to compete as a swimmer — my parents put me in the pool very young, and I used to go against my brother a lot.” In the pool, Yssa’s specialty is the breaststroke. She says it’s the swimming stroke that makes her feel like she’s “gliding” the most. She feels free, floating almost, when she does this stroke.

Sometimes, Yssa admits, life gets tough. The UAAP season necessitates two training sessions a day and attending classes in between. As a public administration major, Yssa sometimes struggles to fit in all her studies — but she credits her practice and her coach for helping her learn the importance of time management. Yssa’s personal philosophy when it comes to swimming is two simple words: “Just enjoy.” Good words to live by.   —AT

Sofia Guidote • Figure Skater

The Philippines and winter sports, by conventional wisdom, shouldn’t go together. But Sofia Guidote, six-time national figure skating champion, doesn’t care. A fateful ice-skating playdate with a friend led her to where she is now, fresh from competing in the International Skating Union’s Junior Grand Prix in Armenia.

The process isn’t easy. Sofia’s training routine is rigorous — she’s on the ice five hours a day, six days a week. When she’s free, she’s often working on her movements through other sports such as Pilates and ballet. Sometimes, she has to leave the country to train with foreign coaches. School often has to take a backseat to figure skating — Sofia is homeschooled, and her classes are only on weekends. However, that doesn’t stop Sofia from having personal goals, separate from ice-skating. “In the future, I want to work in the fashion industry,” says the self-described kikay who takes a lot of pride in her outfits.

Currently, however, Sofia is all business. Two goals define her life right now: qualify for the 2019 World Junior Figure Skating Championship, and ultimately qualify for the 2022 Olympics. Tough, but Sofia has proved time and time again that the odds can be defied.  —AT

Ariana Herranz • Swimmer, Ateneo de Manila University

Ariana Herranz looks back at her days of competitive swimming with great love. A Laguna native, she dedicated her entire childhood and teenage years to swimming, having been a part of the national team ever since she was in Grade 6. A year has passed since she graduated college, but she’s still reminiscing. “I took up swimming because it was the least stressful sport for me — you really get to feel free and empowered in the water.” Ariana was a true professional in and out of the pool. When she entered college, she began to see swimming as more of a team sport rather than an individual one.

And though she struggled with thoughts of quitting during high school, the team encouraged her to keep doing what she loves. She ended up winning Rookie of the Year, and leading her team to total victories in three out of her four years in Ateneo. Now, Ariana is in the real, post-school world, adjusting to her new life. However, she says this: “I’ll always be grateful for my days in swimming; it taught me how to appreciate the small blessings in my life.” —AT

Jana Pages • Lawn Tennis, Ateneo de Manila University

Ace. That’s who Jana Pages is. She’s UAAP Season 78’s Rookie of the Year, and one of the stars on Ateneo’s resurgent women’s lawn tennis team, currently gearing up for the Season 81 tournament next year. “When I was a rookie, I helped end a long-time podium finish drought — we finished in third that year! I’ve never looked back since then.” Jana grew up playing football, which was her first love. She switched to tennis after an injury caused her to switch to a non-contact sport, but she credits football for developing her now-excellent footwork on the tennis court. Many of her competitors fear her excellent baseline play.

Off the court, she’s a senior taking up a communication technologies degree. For Jana, being a student athlete is natural — she actually credits her tennis practices for bringing her grades up, as well as improving her relationships with her friends, especially her teammates. “There’s a positive correlation between my performance in school and training. When I didn’t go to training for two weeks, my grades actually went down! Training also brings together my second family — my team.” Her goals for next year’s tennis season? Simple: to win and to inspire her teammates in doing so. —AT

Dave Ildefonso • Basketball Player, National University

What’s especially striking about Dave Ildefonso, aside from his fresh face, is his humility. Ask him what his job as a player is, and he’ll say it’s to serve his team. Ask him if he feels bothered whenever him and his kuya Shaun are considered one unit, he’ll say he looks up to his brother more than anything. And if you ask him about what his proudest achievement as an athlete is, he’ll say it’s the fact that he can play and pay attention to his education at the same time. “You have to make sacrifices to become a better basketball player and become a better student,” he says.

It’s a little off-putting to listen to someone as young as 18, still adjusting to the throes of college life, candidly talking about sacrifice. And it must not have been easy, transferring from Ateneo to National University to play more closely with his kuya and have his dad as his coach. But it’s hard not to root for someone so good-natured. Dave’s biggest dream is to play for the NBA, go full pro. And whatever sacrifices he has to make to get there, he’ll make them, without complaint. —JP

Shaun Ildefonso • Basketball Player, National University

At 21, with multiple seasons under his belt, it’s safe to say that Shaun Ildefonso’s been through the ringer — a less-than-ideal season for National University, a full college life balancing school and basketball, the implicit pressure that comes with your dad being your coach. That’s probably why he was the one chosen to lead the NU Bulldog’s next year as the incoming team captain.

“My mantra is, I wanna be better every single day,” he says emphatically. “I wanna be a better person. I wanna spread positivity on and off the court.” It’s the kind of resilience you see in most student athletes, but Shaun has it in spades. He takes it upon himself to be a role model for his team, and it’s easy to believe. There’s a confidence to his gait, an unshakeable quality to his character that you can only get from years of blood, sweat and tears shed for the game. Future opponents will have to watch out with Shaun — they’ll be dealing with man who just won’t quit. “I’m always up to the challenge, he says. “That’s who I am.”     —JP

Felicia Cui  • Volleyball Player, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde

There’s an air of effortlessness to Felicia Cui. The open spiker for the College of Saint Benidle Lady Blazers divvies up her time between athletics, her course in industrial design and other creative pursuits, and part-time modeling. That kind of résumé makes you think the concept of the multi-hyphenate should also accommodate sports. But what Felicia does isn’t easy. She’s been a volleyball player since sixth grade, and has spent her first year playing for Ateneo before going green, constantly challenging herself along the way. “It gets harder and harder,” she says of her sport, “but it’s also hard for me to let go, because it’s already part of my life.”

When she trains, she focuses on nothing but training. When she studies or goes to class, she goes full throttle so she’s not distracted by unfinished things while she’s training. It sounds like a high-octane way to live, intensely switching between different headspaces. But to Felicia, giving her best is just sensible. “All the challenges I went through with volleyball, it made me better, even outside (the court),” she says. Talk about well-rounded.   —JP

Ellesse branches can be found in Glorietta 3, SM Mall of Asia, Robinson’s Place Ermita, TriNoma, and Ayala Cebu.

 

Photos by CRU CAMARA
Produced and styled by
NEAL P. CORPUS
Hair and make-up by
RAYMUND DEFEO
Photographer assisted by 
MERSI CARBALLO
Production assisted by 
GIAN NICDAO
Sittings by JAM PASCUAL

Tags:
#profile #self #sports #style

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