There is no denying that the Philippines had a big weekend winning 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal and a bronze medal in the triathlon and duathlon events of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (AKA the 31st SEA Games, SEA Games 31 and Hanoi 2021) in Vietnam. To be specific, Fer Casares and Andrew Kim Remolino won the men’s triathlon gold and silver medals on May 14 while Marion Kim Mangrobang and Raven Faith Alcoseba secured the gold and bronze for the country in the women’s triathlon event that same day. The next day, Mangrobang won the gold in the women’s duathlon which fully established her as Southeast Asia’s reigning queen of triathlon and duathlon until the next SEA Games in Cambodia.
Deservedly, the medalists and their coaches were warmly welcomed at the airport upon arrival from Vietnam as seen in the following images released by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) through Facebook. Check out the images below…
On the future of the SEA Games, the next edition – the 32nd Southeast Asian Games – will be hosted by Cambodia in May 2023. What is significant about next year’s games (promoted as Cambodia 2023) is the fact that it officially has triathlon, duathlon and aquathlon among its many events. In relation to this, the Philippine Star published a report about the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP) looking forward to winning even more gold medals in the 2023 SEA Games with the three mentioned multisport events in mind.
To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Philippine Star report. Some parts in boldface…
After coming short of its sweep bid, the Triathlon Association of the Philippines is looking forward to the next edition of the Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where it has chance to rake in more gold medals.
“Next year in Cambodia, there will be three events each for triathlon, duathlon and aquathlon,” said TRAP president Tom Carrasco. “We’re back to the drawing board because we also have to prepare for the World Games Duathlon in July.”
The country came into the Hanoi event eyeing 1-2 finishes in all four events but wound up with just three gold medals, including two from Kim Mangrobang, a silver from Kim Remolino and a bronze from Raven Alcoseba also in triathlon.
Fer (Casares) delivered the other gold in men’s triathlon.
John Leerams Chicano, a two-time triathlon SEA Games gold winner, failed in his SEA Games duathlon debut as he wound up just fourth.
The Filipinos hope to bounce back big in Phnom Penh.
The above report ended with the TRAP president stating that in Cambodia, they were allowed eight to nine events to include duathlon, aquathlon plus mixed relay teams. For the newcomers reading this, aquathlon is a multisport race or activity that consists of running and swimming.
In ending this post, let us all thank our Lord for what the Philippine triathletes achieved in the SEA Games in Vietnam. Thank the Lord that He will bless the medalists and the coaches for their achievements as the government will release cash incentives to them in accordance to Republic Act Number 10699. For future multisport events that the triathlon team will engage in, pray to our Lord for His guidance on them so that they can achieve victories and bring in more glory and honors for the Philippines. Pray to the Lord with the holy scriptures posted below.
I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7 (AMPC)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)
O Lord our God, let your sweet beauty rest upon us. Come work with us, and then our works will endure; you will give us success in all we do.
The Philippines got a much-needed boost in the medal tally of the ongoing 31st Southeast Asian Games (AKA the 31st SEA Games, SEA Games 31 and Hanoi 2021) in Vietnam as the region’s reigning triathlon queen Marion Kim Mangrobang pulled off another gold medal victory in the women’s duathlon event today. To put things in perspective, this is the second straight gold medal Mangrobang won for the nation and the duathlon event for women happened just a day after the women’s triathlon took place. That being said, what she achieved for the nation – double gold medals in back-to-back multisport events – is nothing short of amazing!
The official race results of the SEA Games women’s duathlon showed that Mangrobang finished the grueling 10 kilometer run – 40Km bike – 5Km run event in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 12 seconds, securing the gold medal for the Philippines. The silver medal went to Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid of Malaysia who finished 2:14:22 while Indonesia’s Zahra Putri Bulan Aprillia grabbed the bronze clocking 2:14:49. Mangrobang’s teammate Alexandra Ganzon finished 8th with a time of 2:23:09.
Looking at the individual times, Mangrobang had the 2nd fastest time in the 10Km run leg and went on to complete the 40Km bike leg in 1:09:51. Mangrobang excelled in the 5Km run leg clocking 19:51 which was enough to secure the first-place victory. None of her competitors finished the 5Km run in less than 20 minutes.
Kim Mangrobang’s double-gold accomplishments this weekend helped the Philippines a lot in the ongoing SEA Games. As such, she has established herself as the reigning queen of triathlon and duathlon in the entire Southeast Asian region. On social media, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) acknowledged the newly won women’s duathlon gold medal as the 14th gold the country won as of this writing. What Mangrobang achieved here will be remembered for a very long time and it is worth recording in the history of Philippine sports, Philippine triathlon and the SEA Games itself.
Now that the triathlon and duathlon events of the 31st SEA Games are officially over, the Philippines won a total of 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal and 1 bronze. Fer Casares and Kim Mangrobang’s gold-medal accomplishments (plus the respective medal victories of Andrew Kim Remolino and Raven Faith Alcoseba) in Vietnam made that clear the Philippines is the best in Southeast Asia in the sport of triathlon until the next SEA Games happen in Cambodia. On duathlon, the Philippines is the best in Southeast Asia among the women while Vietnam is the best in the region among the men.
Considering what the Philippines achieved in the multisport events in Vietnam, we should all be thankful to the Lord for the victories. I encourage you all to congratulate our nation’s best multisport athletes as well as their coaches, the local triathlon officials, the supporters and other stakeholders who helped made the SEA Games events and participation push through.
In closing this post, posted below are two translations of Philippian 4:13 from the Holy Bible which should enlighten you about victory, achievements and accomplishments. Once again, praise and thank the Lord for the triathlon, duathlon and other sports victories the Philippines achieved in the 31st SEA Games.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].
Today, May 14, 2022, is another memorable day of great sports achievement for Philippine triathlon and the nation as a whole as triathletes Fer Casares and Marion Kim Mangrobang won the gold medals of the men’s and women’s triathlon events of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (AKA the 31st SEA Games, SEA Games 31 and Hanoi 2021) in Tuan Chau in Vietnam and the official results have been published online. Adding more to the nation’s SEA Games rankings were the silver and bronze medals won by Andrew Kim Remolino and Raven Faith Alcoseba in their respective triathlon events.
Fer Casares won the gold in the 1.5 Km swim – 40 Km bike – 10 Km run SEA Games men’s triathlon with a time of 1 hour, 56 minutes and 57 seconds. Silver medalist Andrew Kim Remolino followed with 1:59:16. The bronze medal went to Indonesia’s triathlete Ronald Bintang Setiawan who timed 2:01:35. This resulted gold and silver medal victories for the Philippines in the SEA Games triathlon event for men and this also marked the 2nd consecutive men’s triathlon silver medal for the Cebu-based Remolino. For Remolino’s previous SEA Games men’s triathlon silver medal win, click here.
Among the women, Marion Kim Mangrobang finished first with a time of 2:13:31. More than three minutes later, Indonesia’s Inge Prasetyo crossed the finish line in 2:16:38 to earn the silver medal. Mangrobang’s teammate Raven Faith Alcoseba won for the country the bronze medal after timing 2:18:30. The Cebu-based Alcoseba, who was the top finisher among local women in the recent Subic Bay International Triathlon (SUBIT), was ahead of the 4th placer from Indonesia by 56 seconds. For the Philippines, this resulted gold and bronze victories in the SEA Games triathlon for women.
Very notably, today’s SEA Game gold medal victory of Mangrobang is her 3rd consecutive gold following her achievements in the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games triathlon events for women. That being said, Mangrobang is still the reigning triathlon queen of Southeast Asia! For the newcomers reading this who want to know more about Mangrobang, read my feature article of her.
With the gold medal victories of Casares and Mangrobang today, the Philippines is once again the best in triathlon in Southeast Asia. For today, Philippine triathletes added 2 gold medals, 1 silvermedal and 1 bronze medal to help the nation in the overall medal rankings.
Japan served notice it is all out to regain her pre-eminence in the NTT Asia Cup SUBIT as she entered a powerhouse squad in the 29th edition of the country’s longest running triathlon event outside of the National Championships set at Subic Bay Freeport Zone this Sunday (May 1).
Asia’s No. 3 and 56th in the world rankings Ren Sato is installed as the No. 1 seed in the elite men category followed by Tsudoi Miyazaki, ranked 4th in Asia and 59th in the world.
In the elite women, inaugural Youth Olympic Games triathlon gold medalist and Rio Olympics 2016 15th placer Yuka Sato (10th– Continental Ranking; 90th– World Ranking) gets the top billing and Tsudoi Miyazaki (14th-CR; 145th– WR) the main supporting role.
Rounding out the top 5 men favorites are: Rio 2016 veteran Azerbaijan’s Rostislav Pevtsov (47th– CR, 76th-WR), Genta Uchida (8th– CR; 97th– WR) and the last SUBIT (2019) champion Hong Kong’s Oscar Coggins who finished 33rd in the Tokyo 2020 (10th– CR; 120th-WR).
Completing the pundits’ choices for a podium finish in the distaff side is Australia’s Jessica Ewart-mctigue (16th-CR; 153- WR).
The last time the Japanese ruled the elite men was in 2017 when they romped off with 1st,3rd and 5th positions with the Koreans inserting themselves in-between; and in the elite women in 2015 when they finished 1-2.
Partnering with organizing Triathlon Association of the Philippines in SUBIT are Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority under newly-installed Chairman and Administrator Rolen C. Paulino, Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Olympic Committee with Standard Insurance, Asian Center for Insulation Phil (ACIP), Pocari Sweat, Aurora Suites & Pavilion, and FINIS as sponsors.
Seeing action in SUBIT where top performers gain points for continental and world ranking are hopefuls from aside Japan, Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, and Australia are Chinese-Taipei, India, Singapore, Slovakia and the Philippines.
Conspicuously absent are the Chinese, particularly Mengying Zhong, the back-to-back women’s champion of the last two editions of SUBIT.
The country’s bets to the 31st Hanoi SEA Games, namely, Kim Mangrobang, Raven Faith Alcoseba, Lauren Plaza, Andrew Kim Remolino, Fernando Casares and John Chicano banner the Team Philippines.
The above information was sourced from an official press release issued by the Triathlon Association of the Philippines. Some parts were modified for this website.
For related triathlon stories about the Subic Bay International Triathlon and the SEA Games this year, click here, here, here and here.
To put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from the CNN Philippines article. Some parts in boldface…
The country’s triathlon team is boasting a lineup of household names eyeing to continue its regional dominance in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam next month.
Speaking to CNN Philippines, Triathlon Association of the Philippines president Tom Carrasco emphasized that the bunch of household names should give the country some considerable edge over opponents.
Kim Mangrobang, who ruled the 2019 SEA Games women’s individual event at Subic Bay, is set to banner the female team anew as she will be backed by former De La Salle University varsity swimmer Raven Faith Alcoseba and Lauren Plaza as a reserve.
Mangrobang secured the gold while compatriot Kim Kilgroe clinched the silver three years ago.
The same finish was tallied by the Philippine men’s triathlon team that year, with John Chicano taking home the gold and Andrew Kim Remolino nabbing the silver.
Come Vietnam, Remolino and fellow star Fernando Casares will aim to duplicate the feat, while defending champion Chicano sits kingly on the reserve list.
Meanwhile, Chicano is shifting focus to rule the duathlon event as he will be joined by Raymund Torio and reserve Casares in the men’s squad.
Mangrobang will have no rest as she will anchor the distaff side along with Alexandra Dumaran and Alcoseba as a reserve.
In 2019, Monica Torres snagged the gold in the women’s individual duathlon event while Joey Delos Reyes settled for a silver medal for the men’s side. Torres, Efraim Inigo, Paui Fornea, and Emmanuel Comendador clinched the bronze medal in the mixed relay category.
Ani De Leon, Melvin Fausto, and George Vilog are tapped as coaches of the Hanoi-bound Philippine triathlon team.
For the newcomers reading this, the mentioned Philippine Team triathletes/duathletes will be competing first in the Subic Bay International Triathlon set for May 1 at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone before proceeding to Vietnam for the SEA Games triathlon and duathlon races. If you happen to be here in the Philippines and you are interested to see Mangrobang, Chicano, Remolino, Casares, Alcoseba and Torio in person, then I encourage you to visit Subic Bay and watch the May 1 triathlon live.
Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Are you excited about the triathlon and duathlon events of the SEA Games in Vietnam? Do you think that the Philippines will successfully win the gold medals in both multisports events at the SEA Games? Do you plan to watch the Subic Bay International Triathlon on May 1 in person to see the above mentioned Philippine Team triathletes/duathletes perform? How many triathletes or triathlon enthusiasts are there in your local community right now?
If you are looking for nice place for vacation and you also want to watch a triathlon event live, then you should come to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone where the 2022 edition of the Subic Bay International Triathlon (SUBIT) will be held at on May 1, 2022 (for external references, click here, here, here and here).
For a quick look at who the Philippine Team triathletes are racing and what impact SUBIT had on Philippine triathlon in general, posted below is an excerpt from the Manila Bulletin sports news report. Some parts in boldface…
The race is actually a tuneup for the PH team going to the biennial meet where it aims to maintain its 1-2 finish in the men’s and women’s division.
Racing in SUBIT are Fer Casares, Kim Remolino, John Chicano, Kim Mangrobang, Raven Alcoseba and Lauren Plaza.
“The SUBIT will be a good tuneup race for our SEAG-bound athletes, especially sa game strategy,” said Triathlon Association President Tom Carrasco.
“SUBIT has been at the forefront of development of Filipino triathletes. I’m proud to say that SUBIT has produced Southeast Asian Games champions and notable Asian Games performers.”
Among the SUBIT products were SEAG winners Chicano, Mangrobang, Nikko Huelgas and (Claire) Adorna, Youth Olympics qualifier Vicky Deldio, Columbia World Games qualifiers Carlo Pedregosa and Mirasol Abad, Birmingham World Games qualifier Casares, and 2018 Asian Games top 10 finisher Kim Kilgroe.
This year’s SUBIT – formally called the NTT AST Subic Bay International Triathlon (SuBIT) 2022 – will have race distances of 1.5 kilometer swim – 40 Km bike – 10 Km run (Standard Distance), 750 M swim – 20 Km bike – 5 Km run (Sprint Distance) and 500 M – 13 Km bike – 2.5 Km run (Super Sprint Distance) which will cover lots of places in the freeport. With regards to schedules, posted below are the details sourced from the event page at RaceYaya.com
This year’s SUBIT is a joint project of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP), the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and I Love Fun-tastic Subic Bay supported by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), Standard Insurance, FINIS Philippines, Gatorade, Subic Bay Travelers Hotel, POCARI Sweat, and Asian Centre for Insulation Philippines Inc.
Where to enjoy food and drinks in Subic Bay?
Apart from being a sports tourism hot spot, the Subic Bay Freeport Zone also has nice places where you and your family or group of friends can spend time at and enjoy good food and drinks together such as Gourmet Garage Subic (social media here and here) and Xtremely Xpresso Café (social media here and here) to name a few. Personally, I enjoyed the two mentioned places a lot during my past visits. I would suggest you who read this to visit them on your next visit to Subic Bay.
Located at 1143 Argonaut Highway (very near the Starbucks Coffee shop there), Gourmet Garage Subic is one very fine place to dine in with others and their cooks specialize preparing really tasty meals such as the Truffle BBQ Orange Baby Back Ribs, the Grilled Salmon Tamari Quinoa, Grilled Javier’s Burger, Sake-marinated Fish Fillet, the Lamb Madras Curry, Gourmet Garage’s Beef Tapa and their signature pasta the Luglug Spaghettini to name a few. Looking for drinks, snacks, cakes, condiments and bread? They have them too! Their venue also has a fine-looking design. If you have any catering needs, they are willing to serve you.
Over at 1 Dewey Avenue corner Sta. Rita Road in the freeport, Xtremely Xpresso is a café that offers customers really good coffee plus meals that families and friends can enjoy together. For the coffee lovers, they got the Jump-start Espresso, Vienna Coffee, White Mocha and Vietnamese Coffee plus their very own lineup of frappe’s such as the Shockwave, the Coffee Cradle and Ekimocha to name a few. For those looking for hearty meals, they have Baby Back Ribs, Korean Beef Ribs, Salisbury Steak, the Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich, pasta and their Big Ben pizza!
Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Are you excited to visit Subic Bay for the May 1 triathlon event and the local places to enjoy good food? When was the last time you visited Subic Bay?
Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from John Chicano by means of an interview and research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.
A Chat with 2019 SEA Games Gold Medalist and Southeast Asia’s Triathlon King – John Chicano
Since he first participated in the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in 2017, John Leerams Chicano raked in notable honors for the Philippines and took his career in the multisport of triathlon (swim-bike-run) even higher.
Today, Chicano is one of the highest-ranking members of the National Team of triathlon and this past December, he won the gold medal in the men’s triathlon event of the 2019 SEA Games that was held at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (so close to his native Olongapo City). With that big victory, he established himself as Southeast Asia’s newest triathlon king replacing Nikko Huelgas (2015 and 2017 SEA Games gold medalist). It was also the big reward for the long road (about a decade) he literally took engaging in multisport events like triathlon and duathlon.
Recently I met Chicano and had a nice chat with him.
For you, my readers, here is a look at 3-time SEA Games medalist John Chicano.
A quick look at his background
John Chicano has been engaging in triathlon for many years now and has been a member of the Philippine team along the way. He represented the country in many events of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP), most notably the annual Subic Bay International Triathlon (SUBIT). He also raced in other triathlon events organized by Bike King Philippines and other race organizers. On livelihood, he previously worked as a bike mechanic as well as a janitor. He now has his own family to support.
When it comes to triathlon at the SEA Games, he made his debut in the 2017 edition of the games held in Malaysia and won the silver medal in the individual men’s triathlon event next to teammate Nikko Huelgas who won the gold medal back then (note: Huelgas first won the SEA Games gold in 2015). His achievement was recognized by the media and the national government which in turn rewarded him (along with all other medalists) with cash incentives in accordance to Republic Act Number 10699.
Winning the SEA Games gold medal at Subic Bay
On the early morning of December 1, 2019, the SEA Games men’s triathlon event started with Chicano and Cebu-based teammate Andrew Kim Remolino representing the nation. After going through the pressure and enduring the pain of the 1.5 kilometer swim – 40 Km bike – 10 Km run event, Chicano won the gold medal in 1 hour, 53 minutes and 26 seconds. Remolino followed with 1:55:03 to win the silver medal, completing the 1-2 punch for the Philippines.
“We were confident in the sense that we prepared well for the SEA Games which includes three months of training at Clark,” Chicano said. “While I was confident to win, there were a few moments of uncertainty since the big competition (men’s triathlon) could turn out to be unpredictable.”
During the December 1 event, Chicano and Remolino raced together during the 40-kilometer bike leg and on the spot they came up with a new strategy to win gold and silver. At that particular stage, another foreign competitor biked near them. Earlier in the swim leg, Remolino was the first to emerge from the sea while Chicano was 4th (an Indonesian and a Singaporean were slightly ahead of him). During the 10-kilometer run leg, Chicano and Remolino built up their lead as a country and, ultimately, he gave it his all to win the gold, literally upgrading from silver (2017 SEA Games). The victory was witnessed by the top sports officials, the coaches, the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP), the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority officials, the spectators, corporate sponsors and, of course, Chicano’s family.
“It was a very happy moment for me to cross the finish line for the gold medal. I even felt like crying for happiness back then,” Chicano recalled the very moment he won the gold and became Southeast Asia’s best. “This was the big payback for almost ten years of effort racing in triathlon and growing to be stronger and more competitive. My triathlon effort and build-up started in 2010, preceded by biking in 2009. The feeling was so tremendous and happy.”
During the medal awarding ceremony, Chicano thought deeply about his SEA Games achievement and that he could bring further honors to the nation (plus his locality) in the years to come. The day after that, Chicano and teammates Remolino, Kim Mangrobang and Kim Kilgroe got tremendous spotlight together in the national newspapers which was expected considering their victorious achievements.
His SEA Games gold medal achievement not only raked in praise from many, financial rewards also came in from the national government (RA 10699), the City Government of Olongapo, corporate sponsors and other generous parties. Chicano even got to visit the Philippine Senate and met with Senator Richard Gordon.
As of this writing, Chicano is strongly focused on triathlon and he believes that what he achieved so far as a triathlete, and also as Southeast Asia’s best male triathlete, will be remembered for a long time and perhaps inspire the next generation of Filipinos to excel in sports.
When it comes to the near future, Chicano will go to Australia very soon to attend the Annual General Meeting and Awards Night of the FilOz Triathlon Club as their Guest Speaker. After that, he will undergo triathlon training for a few more weeks there in Australia.
From this point on, I recommend you all to take a close look at Chicano in triathlon events both local and overseas. He is, after all, Southeast Asia’s reigning triathlon king.
Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from Kim Mangrobang by means of an interview and research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.
Meet Southeast Asia’s Reigning Triathlon Queen – Kim Mangrobang!
When triathlon (swim-bike-run) made its debut in the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in late 2005 at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone here in the Philippines, Marion Kim Mangrobang was still a teenager who witnessed the event as a spectator. Already a junior-level member of the Philippine triathlon team, she naturally cheered for her older teammates Ani De Leon and Sandra Araullo who represented the nation in the first-ever SEA Games triathlon event for women.
Fast forward to December 1, 2019, Mangrobang represented the Philippines in the 2019 SEA Games individual women’s triathlon event (her 3rd SEA Games since 2015) which was also held at Subic Bay and, more notably, won the gold medal in front of a large cheering crowd (with coach Ani De Leon – Brown, the other Philippine team coaches, officials of the Philippine Sports Commission, PHISGOC and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority plus other important personalities watching near the finish line) followed by her teammate Kim Kilgroe who copped the silver.
As far as the SEA Games records go, Mangrobang won a total of four medals since her debut in 2015, specifically 3 gold medals (the first gold won in 2017) and 1 silver medal (won in 2015). In retrospect, her gold medal victory at Subic Bay was a successful defense of her gold medal achievement in the 2017 SEA Games which essentially established her as Southeast Asia’s reigning triathlon queen.
That being said, I am very happy to present to you my feature interview of Kim Mangrobang which starts right now.
Kim Mangrobang’s background
Mangrobang was born in Sta. Mesa, Manila, in 1991 to parents Richard (an engineer) and Dine (a manpower firm executive). Since the age of four, her family has been living in Santa Rosa, Laguna which is now a progressing city south of Metro Manila.
Mangrobang got into the sport of swimming as a result of her parents’ encouragement for her when she was little. She found sports to be an enjoyable pastime.
“As with most other parents, my mom and dad encouraged me to get into sports during the summer season when I was young. So I joined a swim team and along the way I felt I was playing given the aquatic aspect of swimming,” she recalled. “My teammates and I had fun with swimming and later I realized that swimming would be a serious form of competition.”
At the age of nine, she started swimming and eventually it became a daily part of her life similar with her teammates. As an elementary student, she continued swimming and eventually she became a varsity swimmer in her high school days (with the goal of making it in the Palarong Pambansa) and participated in many swimming competitions (between local sports clubs).
Being a member of her school’s swim team and of a separate swim club, Mangrobang learned a lot about competitive swimming related to national sports and inter-club competition. Along the way, she had to deal with a certain disadvantage of hers – her height.
“I really was a short girl back then. When I was twelve, my swimming coach noticed my height disadvantage and he figured out that it would be more helpful if I would try out with the Philippine team of triathlon,” she said.
That coach turned out to be none other than Abelardo “Abet” Alon-Alon who was a former national champion in triathlon as well as a former national team coach in the said sport. Historically, Alon-Alon was a standout in Philippine triathlon’s early years back in the 1990s His suggestion to Mangrobang to get into triathlon and into Philippine multisport turned out to be a blessing for her and the nation.
She immediately took part in a tryout (for the Philippine triathlon team) which was composed of a 1.5 kilometer swim and 3-kilometer run. Her swim time was 27 minutes and 36 seconds while she timed around 12 minutes in the run. She qualified and her membership with the Philippine triathlon team started on the junior (youth) level.
“That was the start of my new journey in sports and I realized that there were better opportunities in triathlon,” she recalled.
Triathlon career and rise in prominence
Gradually Kim Mangrobang redeveloped herself athletically under the guidance of triathlon coaches like Raul Cuevas (now heading race organizer Bike King Philippines), Peter Gonzales and Abet Alon-Alon to name a few. As she maintained her swimming, she learned to bike and run gaining valuable skills and experience. Before participating in triathlon, she engaged in aquathlon (swim-run) events.
At age thirteen, she took part in a Fit-and-Tri event for youth finishing 6th overall in a short distance aquathlon race held in Ayala Alabang Village. She finished 2nd to the last back then as she was still getting oriented. She went on to join a lot more aquathlon events later.
Her first-ever triathlon performance happened in another Fit-and-Tri event some time later. In that race, she finished 6th place. In further triathlon events, she gradually made her way up until reaching 1st place.
“To the best of my memory, I finished at around 4th place overall during the first year of competing in the Fit-and-Tri series. In the following year, I reached 1st place overall. Emerging 1st became normal for me in the years that followed, until I reached the age of fifteen or sixteen,” she recalled.
In 2006, Mangrobang joined the Junior Elite race of the Subic Bay International Triathlon (SUBIT) held at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and finished 2nd. That event was her first time to compete with foreign triathletes her age and instead of feeling intimidated, she performed well and still enjoyed the experience. Her value as a member of the Philippine team grew more. That same year, she raced in the Asian Duathlon Championships held in Clark finishing 4th in the Junior Women contest.
At age seventeen, Mangrobang tested herself in a Standard Distance (1.5 Km swim – 40 Km bike – 10 Km run) event during the 2008 Subic Bay ASTC Long Distance Triathlon event and won the bronze. Ahead of her were LC Langit (gold) and Monica Torres (silver).
In May 2009, Mangrobang finished 10th in the Elite Women contest of that year’s SUBIT clocking 2 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds (2:32:45). In the years that followed, she kept on representing the Philippines in the Elite Women contests of not only SUBIT but also in other triathlon events of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) that were held around the world. No matter how tough the field of competition was, the Santa Rosa triathlete kept focusing and persevering on doing her best and improving herself.
In the 2016 edition of SUBIT (2016 Subic Bay NTT ASTC Triathlon Asian Cup) held at Subic Bay, Mangrobang emerged as the Elite Women champion followed by her teammate Kim Kilgroe and Hong Kong’s Kate Rutherford. She timed 2:10:40 and won several ITU qualifying points in return. For the Philippines, it was a rare gold medal victory in the history of SUBIT which has often been dominated by foreign triathletes. The said victory was also proof that Mangrobang’s overseas training (under the guidance of Portugal-based coach Sergio Santos) paid off nicely. To this day, her training in Portugal continues.
Mangrobang also achieved great honor for the nation in non-triathlon events. She emerged as the women’s champion in the Lisbon Meia-Maratona Dos Descombrimentos Half Marathon that was held on December 6, 2015 in Portugal. Her victorious performance saw her timing 1:22:40 outclassing 2nd placer Ceu Nunes (1:26:55) and 3rd placer Sofia Mateiro (1:27:34). That particular sports event was noted to be a programmed race to test the fitness of triathletes. It was also a rarity that Filipinos get to race in the said event, which made Mangrobang’s victory even more outstanding.
Triathlon at the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games)
“I was still in high school back then. Me and my family left Santa Rosa at dawn to go to Subic Bay to watch the SEA Games triathlon. I had to take a leave of absence from school since that was a school day and I had to go back to school the very next day,” Mangrobang recalled. “When we arrived, there was already a huge crowd of spectators around the venue. The excitement was really high even before the race started.”
Mangrobang recalled that as a spectator, she felt nervous for the nation and what was at stake just as the individual participants were formally introduced during the pre-race ceremony. Like many others, she could only stand and watch the race unfold from behind the barricades (used for crowd control) and experience bouts of anxiety and nervousness. She cheered for her older teammates Sandra Araullo and Ani de Leon. Araullo went on to win the silver medal while De Leon (now a coach) finished 4th.
“I was really nervous back then as a spectator. Then I said to myself, ‘how much more nervous I would be if I was the one racing for the Philippines in the SEA Games,’” she stated. She added that she noticed the added pressure of participating and literally carrying the nation and the local people’s hope that victory would be achieved. She imagined herself in the future being in such a high-stakes situation.
After almost ten years later, Kim Mangrobang made her debut in the SEA Games (2015) in Singapore as a triathlete. Her teammate back then was Claire Adorna.
“Coaches of TRAP selected who were the best to represent our country in the SEA Games with results required,” Mangrobang recalled. “Based on the results of the time, they saw that me and Claire were the best and we were selected for the games. There were no qualifying races back then, which is different compared to today.”
In the 2015 SEA Games individual women’s triathlon event, Claire Adorna and Mangrobang worked together with a strategy to help the former gain a lead early in the event. Adorna raced with a foot injury back then and the team’s focus was to help her (and the nation) build up a good lead in both the swim and bike legs of the race, and ensure victory even if her injury would slow her down in the 10-kilometer run leg. The strategy was a success for the Philippines as the injured Adorna won the gold medal and Mangrobang captured the silver medal. Their respective times were 2:13:08 and 2:14:26. The bronze medal went to Thailand’s Arunsiri Sanruthai who was more than seven minutes behind Mangrobang.
“During the build-up heading to the SEA Games of 2017, there was anxiety and pressure among us teammates mainly because expectations for us to repeat success were so high as a result of what we achieved in the previous SEA Games,” she stated.
To put things in perspective, the Philippines not only repeated its success in the 2015 SEA Games, they exceeded it by having twin gold-and-silver medal victories in both the individual men’s and individual women’s triathlon events in the 2017 edition of the games. On the men’s race, Nikko Huelgas won his 2nd consecutive gold medal while John Chicano added more punch to the victory by grabbing the silver medal. For Mangrobang, that particular event marked her first time to win the SEA Games gold medal.
“It was a very happy moment for me personally because all the efforts and training invested paid off in the best way possible,” Mangrobang recalled her feeling of winning her first gold medal. “A lot of relief followed as all the pressure and nervousness accumulated just vanished and got replaced with the thrill of victory. Naturally, I became very thankful.”
With regards to the 2019 SEA Games, Mangrobang spent a great deal of her time overseas. As she kept training in Portugal (plus a month of training in Mexico), she represented the country in many sports events that were held in other parts of the world for the first eleven months of 2019. As such, she did not spend much time in the Philippines.
Regardless, she won the gold medal of the individual women’s triathlon once more in the latest SEA Games marking her successful defense of her standing as Southeast Asia’s triathlon queen. Her time was 2:02:00. The December 1, 2019 victory at Subic Bay also marked the full turn of life for Mangrobang who went from spectator in the 2005 SEA Games triathlon into Southeast Asia’s best female triathlete fourteen years later at the same freeport.
After winning the two 2019 SEA Games gold medals (individual women and mixed team relay), Mangrobang and her medalist teammates were greeted by lots of local spectators who also expressed their gratitude to them.
“Getting praised and being thanked a lot in return for the victory is normal. It is also a very humbling feeling to see so many spectators rooting for us national athletes to win. Through that experience, I realized there is truth to the 2019 SEA Games tagline of ‘We Win As One,’” she stated.
Mangrobang and her winning teammates (John Chicano, Kim Kilgroe, Kim Remolino, Claire Adorna and Fer Casares) plus members of the coaching staff were nicely rewarded by the national government through Republic Act Number 10699. They formally received their cash incentives in a special ceremony held at Malacanang Palace in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The President jokingly said I resembled a certain past classmate of his from his days as a Grade 5 student,” Mangrobang said recalling her short chat with Duterte as she had her photo session with him at Malacanang. It was her 2nd time to be with the President.
The post-SEA Games buzz did not stop with Duterte. Apart from meeting corporate sponsors and having sessions with some members of the press, Mangrobang was acknowledged by the respective local government units (LGUs) of Santa Rosa in Laguna and Bauan in Batangas through social media.
Bauan claimed Mangrobang as their own since her mother is a native there. After accepting their invitation, she attended the flag raising ceremony at Bauan and was presented by the LGU officials to the locals. They gave her a certificate of recognition. Mangrobang also attended another flag raising ceremony with the Provincial Government of Batangas (headed by Governor DoDo Mandanas) held in Batangas City.
Aiming High for 2020 Tokyo Olympics
As of now, Kim Mangrobang is aiming to get qualified to represent the Philippines in the individual women’s triathlon event of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. With the support of San Miguel Corporation, Nike, Specialized, Oakley, Garmin and the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP) and the guidance of coach Sergio Santos, she is now in full training in Portugal and eventually she will be joining several triathlon events (recognized by the ITU) that serve as qualifying races for the Olympics.
According to Mangrobang, there will only be 55 slots for the Tokyo Olympic Games individual women’s triathlon event. The qualifying period will end this coming May and subsequently the final lineup of triathletes racing in the Olympics will be announced.
“I’m very focused now on getting into the Olympics and I’m using whatever energy I have for it,” Mangrobang declared.
Message to the Readers
“When I race, I realize that it is a big responsibility because I become an inspiration to other people and I hope that what I achieved will inspire others to engage in the active lifestyle as that is important. I also hope that once they get into triathlon, they will learn to work hard and train smart.”
Note: My special thanks to Akrotiri restaurant located at Commercenter, Filinvest City, Muntinlupa City. Akrotiri really has a nice place (which was great for this feature interview) as well as a fine selection of food and beverages. Those of you who are reading this, I highly recommend Akrotiri.