Moro Lorenzo Sportswoman of the year
Chlorine isn’t the most pleasant of things in this world. There’s a reason they mix it into your local pool—it kills things. It’s also one nasty irritant, and a big part of why swimming coaches the world over recommend wearing goggles while in the water.
Though many would find her tactics unorthodox, it’s hard to argue against Jiji Cordero’s loaded résumé. For one thing, she doesn’t wear goggles during competitions. They have a tendency to get dislodged when she dives. They’re also practically obsolete; she doesn’t need them to decimate the opposition.
A fine arts junior, Jiji has been swimming all her life. She took to the water at the ripe age of two, and began competing when she was four. While most kids her age worried about their Christmas presents, hers was an anxiety of much greater proportions.
“I felt bad because I didn’t have any [podium finishes],” she shares. Under the tutelage of her father, former swimmer and national coach, Dennis, she would soon find herself racing against and beating swimmers more than three years her senior.
There is no secret to her success other than hard work. Her training is simple―she has to break her best time every day. If she doesn’t at least match her previous time, it’s more hours in the pool for this athletic wunderkind.
So far, she has been undefeated in five events in the UAAP: all three breaststroke variants and both the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys. She nabbed Rookie of the Year honors last year, and did one better in Season 73 as she was named league MVP.
“I want to be one of the great athletes―to have four MVP’s, hopefully,” says Jiji.
Currently, she’s training for the 2012 London Olympics, and is just a few seconds off the qualifying mark. Still, if this doesn’t work out, she won’t fret. According to her, “If I ever don’t get into the Olympics, I’ll continue my culinary studies.”
Champion swimmer and future restaurateur, Jiji and her ambitions come hand-in-hand with a fervor to succeed like no other. As her favorite saying goes, “Nothing is impossible.”
AMBROSIO PADILLA AWARDEE
With a name like that, few should wonder why Ezekiel “Zek” Valera has excelled as both a student and as an athlete.
Belonging to the top breed of collegiate pole vaulters in the country and also the school’s honor roll, Zek has always shown that his relentless drive to succeed enables him to be a sportsman and a model student. He is last school year’s personification of mens sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body.
As the pole vault gold medalist in both UAAP Seasons 71 and 72, he has always risen against the odds. Once, Zek faced a potentially career-ending accident during training—falling four meters head-first to the ground, a month before UAAP 72. But come competition time, he staged one of the most fantastic performances in UAAP history, nearly breaking the meet record and winning gold at the same time.
Last season, aside from the pole vault, Valera tried other events including the 110-meter high hurdles, long jump, and the decathlon―the most grueling track and field event―all while being hampered by a torn left hamstring. The injury seemed absent during the competition as Valera still finished with new personal bests.
With regards to academics, Valera graduated with an honorable mention in BS Health Sciences two school years ago, but opted to double-major in a completely different degree just to compete for another year. Now an AB History graduate as well, he says he likes how history is taught in a non-textbook way in the Ateneo.
Having written about the Philippine infant mortality rate during the American period for his thesis, he showed that there’s something else aside from mainstream history, which is usually political and economic. But now, Zek is all geared up for medical school: “It’s actually good that I studied history because now, I’m eager to study the natural sciences again.”
For Zek, success is all about time management and a keen sense of priorities. When asked about how he balances school with sports, he says, “I don’t mix them. If it’s time to study, I study. If it’s time to train, I train. I make time for both.”
MORO LORENZO SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
Winning in track and field is an amazing feat in itself, but winning by such a huge margin every single time is something else. Such has been the story of Blue Trackster Soy Soriano for most of the 2010 – 2011 track and field season.
“I’m competitive. I love to win,” he confesses.
Conversely, he hates losing. His greatest motivation is the desire to escape the bitterness of defeat. “I’ve had my share of defeats so I know what it feels like to lose, and I just don’t like it,” he shares. “So, I train to win.”
Soy, who has been hauling in the medals since high school, has proved that he is one of the fastest men in the collegiate scene by demonstrating his blurring speed in and out of the country.
Starting the track season with a silver medal performance in the 200-meter dash during the 57th Sabah Open Championships in Malaysia, Soy continued to improve vastly throughout the year. The succeeding 2010 University Games in Dumaguete and the 73rd UAAP season saw him not just bagging the gold in the 200-meter dash but also breaking or tying the record in both meets. He clocked in at 21.53 and 21.80 seconds in the UniGames and UAAP, respectively.
On the international level, he represented the country in the ASEAN University Games in Thailand. Although he narrowly missed on a bronze-medal finish, the experience he gained is invaluable.
Locally, Soy is unmatched. He is among the very few athletes who have won both the 100- and 200-meter sprints in a single meet―doing it twice this season.
However meteoric his rise may be, Soy is still quick to keep himself grounded. He realizes that there have been many who have won before him, and he constantly thinks of new ways to be his own man. “I want to be in a league many could only dream of,” he says.
Indeed, it is Soy’s drive to succeed and his hard work in training that puts him a notch above everyone else. He quotes one of his idols and says, “If you train as hard as I do, there’s no reason not to believe in yourself.”