The National University Bulldogs have been bulldozing the competition for the past two UAAP Men’s Badminton tournaments. Ariel Magnaye, along with fellow national team member Joper Escueta, has led the resurgence of the schools’ badminton program. The presence of Magnaye in the team has also led to a recruiting coup for the Jhocson Street shuttlers.
Coming from a storied badminton clan and a mainstay in the National team, Magnaye has been instilled with a team-first mentality, sacrificing individual accolades for the sake of the bigger picture.
After dominating every doubles and singles match he played in last season, Magnaye has given way to his juniors for them to gain experience. “Para sa akin, yun kasi yung nilalaro niya [NU Rookie Keeyann Gabuelo] at nanggaling din ako doon. Kumbaga, dati rin akong singles player kasi,” he said about how he relates to his juniors. “E ngayon, hindi na ko nagsisingles, doubles player na ko tsaka sinasabi ko sa coach ko [Jojo Mance] na ibigay mo na sa mga rookie ko yun singles, sa mga juniors ko. Sila na lang yun, hindi na ako. May tiwala ako sa laro nila.”
But even after stepping down to let his lowerclassmen step up, Magnaye knows he has a target on his back as the top ranked player in the UAAP tournament. “Alam ko kasi marami ang gustong tumalo sa akin dito, madami talaga, kaya kailangan kong magpursige pa,” he remarked.
This mindset is also what he preaches to his team, especially to rookie Gabuelo. “Kinakausap ko tong si Keeyann, sabi ko sa kanya, ‘isipin mo tong hirap mo dito, dito sa national team. Isipin mo yung hirap na pinagdadaanan mo dito tapos matalo ka lang ng mga taga-labas.’ So iyon, pumapasok naman sa sarili,” he said.
Even after two UAAP Championships, four UAAP finals appearances, and numerous international tournaments under his belt, Magnaye has one regret. “Sayang lang kasi nung nag UST ako, yun yung time na National Team ako at naglalaro ako sa ibang bansa. Hindi lang nasabay yung academics ko kaya ako lumipat. Sayang para sa akin yung taon na lumipas,” the UAAP Season 73 MVP-Rookie of the Year reflected. For him, those two years he spent sitting out of the tournament made him stronger both physically and mentally. “Sobrang okay yun nangyari kasi parehas kami [ng intensity] nung kakampi kong si Joper [Escueta]. Talagang gusto ko rin talaga dito sa UAAP kasi masaya ako pagnaglalaro ako dito sa UAAP.”
For Magnaye, though, the pressure of being in the UAAP is far greater than that of his competitions abroad. “Sa international kasi no pressure, nothing to lose. Lahat sila kilala na sa international, lahat sila may pangalan na. Ako ito pa lang, nag-gaigain pa lang ng world ranking,” he disclosed. “Dito sa UAAP, may kaba pa ng kaunti. Nandito tayo sa bansa natin e. Sinasabi nila na ako yung malakas, nakakadagdag sa kaba yun. Kasi anytime puwedeng masilat. Alam ko kasi marami ang gustong tumalo sa akin dito, kaya kailangan kong magpursige pa.”
Now just one win away from clinching his third badminton crown in the UAAP, the National team player had nothing but fun stories about his final year in the collegiate ranks. “Siguro talagang happy kami, mas lalo na ako. Kasi ako last ko na na rin e. Masaya kasi lahat ng nangyayari hindi ko ineexpect,” he said about his team. “Sa mga teammates ko, may rookie ako na sobrang baguhan lang sa UAAP na sobrang ganda ng nilalaro. Sabi ko rin kasi sa kanila na makukuha rin natin ito, para sa inyo din ito, para sa ating lahat.”
“One last push na tayo. Nandito na tayong lahat, ipipilit na natin ito. Eto na, kung pag palain back-to-back tayo.”
Nothing would be more special for Ariel Magnaye than to cap his spectacular UAAP career with a championship. The King Bulldog and NU will have the opportunity to do so this Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
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