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Fencing

Cinderella run brings hope to UP women foilists

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Sometimes losing makes you feel like a winner, especially if you felt you had accomplished even a small thing that you have waited for so long.

Such was the story of the University of the Philippines women’s foil team, who had bucked all odds and stunned everyone, including themselves, with a silver-medal finish behind the powerhouse University of the East squad last Friday at the Ateneo Blue Eagle Gym.

The wait was indeed a frustrating one, according to Team Captain Andrea Baring. And no evidence was as clear as the tears she shed after they successfully overcame their quarterfinals match against Far Eastern University. For Baring and, perhaps her batchmate Chin Pascual, the win meant more than the sure bronze medal reward.

Baring narrated, “Nung unang UAAP na naglaro ako, simula pa lang nun, wala ng nakuha [yung team.]” The third-year veteran had told herself for the past two years what each athlete would usually tell one’s self after every disappointing season: “Next UAAP, gagalingan ko.”

Despite not winning any medal for that span of time, Baring noted the progress the team made against the opponents. “Kung makikita mo nung first year, pag team event na, as in kain talaga. 25-45. Pero nung nag-second UAAP ako [last season], 38-45; so onti na lang,” she said. With these numbers giving them motivation, the team’s skipper pushed her teammates to try getting a medal again this year.

However, just at the start of the season, the UP women’s foil team lost last year’s rookie Clarian Senga. With this development, Baring admittedly felt “parang napanghinaan ako ng loob.” She then turned to the ones who were left behind to carry their dreams of a UAAP medal. “Nagtitiwala ako sa mga ka-team ko na kaya namin to,” she said. The team might have lost the former Lady Red Page, but the they were able to recruit a suitable replacement in former Baby Lady Tamaraw, Vanessa Manalo.

February came and the next UAAP season Baring and company were looking forward to what would come along with it. It seemed like the barricades would not leave the Lady Maroons, as Baring and Hannah Hollero missed the bus to individual event glory completely. After day 1’s ranking round, Baring was visibly shaken and bothered. She said, “Parang ayaw ko ng [magpakita]. Hindi ko na kayang humarap sa mga teammate ko. Sobrang nahihiya ako.” The captain really thought her teammates had drawn strength from her – a thought Baring felt she should not think of.

However, it turned out to be the other way around. Hollero, Pascual, and Manalo have reached out to their captain and comforted her. Even their coach, Allan Dator, has told her that everything was fine. With these encouraging words, Baring felt that, “Nabuild up ulit yung tapang ko. Kung sila nga nagtitiwala sa kin: go lang, ilaban mo pa rin.”

After crying tears of joy over finally getting the bronze medal, the fourth-year Sports Science major pondered on the result. “Actually, [sa] bronze, sobrang saya ko na dun eh,” she admittedly felt. She then thought further. “OK na ba ko sa bronze? Sabi ko, ‘Hindi; kung mangangarap ka na rin lang, parangarapin mo na yung mataas, di ba?’”

The thought clearly showed, not only with the way Baring played in the knockout matches, but also with how her teammates had responded and performed with the same mission in mind. With everyone on the same page, the Team Captain was very happy about what she had seen and as evidenced by the results. She delightedly and thankfully said, “Sobrang saya ko. Hindi ako mapupunta sa ganito ngayon, wala akong medal ngayon kung hindi dahil sa kanila.” Baring furthered, “Ngayon lang natupad yung pangarap ko na magkaroon ng team na matutulungan ako, na magtutulungan.”

Now that the medal drought has ended, Baring and company have their sights set on a bigger dream for next season. “I-push pa to. Next time, gold [naman]. Kaya naman eh,” she said as a note to self.” But for now, Andrea relishes this moment. “Masaya pag nakuha mo yung pinaghirapan mo.”

In any team sport, or in this case and more specifically, a team event in a certain sport, goal-setting is important. Even more important is getting everyone to focus on the same goal – dreaming as one, working as one, achieving as one. And when that moment happens, dreaming something bigger is the next step.

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