When the last match of the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Judo Championships was done, there was a sense of relief on the face of University of Santo Tomas heavyweight Dither Tablan.
Besides winning his third UAAP gold, the fourth-year judoka was also crowed as the top individual performer of the two-day meet.
However, it was an achievement that almost did not see daylight.
“Alam naman natin na nagaalala lang yung UST sa akin at sa health ko. Hindi naman ito puro sports lang. Naging issue pa sa akin yung I had to get clearance pa,” disclosed the 19-year-old, who weighs almost 400 pounds.
“Pero nung time na yun, tinatanong ko sa sarili ko, ‘Bakit ganun?’ Nag-training na ako ng isang taon nun e tapos baka hindi pa ako makalaro. Naisip ko rin, ‘Ano ba ‘to? Eto lang meron ko e.'”
In his first three years, Tablan grew and matured by leaps and bounds.
After failing to make the podium in his rookie year, Tablan dominated the next two years.
This time around, the competition began even before he hit the mats.
Fortunately, he aced every test that was given to him, clearing him to defend his crown.
“Lahat naman ng tests thankfully naging normal. Talagang grateful din ako. Na-resolve naman kaagad,” he beamed.
“Kinakabahan lang talaga yung doctor ko kasi nga, I’m an obese person. Hindi normal na nakikita kami sa sport.”
With Tablan leading the way, the UST Golden Judokas dominated the competition, tallying 45 total points — 27 points ahead Ateneo and UP.
“Mas intense yung training namin ngayon, mas nagbigay kami ng time sa training. Kasi nga, gusto namin punuan yung kulang namin dahil madami sa amin nag-graduate na. Talagang more time sa training, more time sa weights, more time sa endurance,” disclosed Tablan as they did not want to end the season with another tie at the top like last year.
“Ito yung pinaka inaasam namin sa lahat.”
Definitely, adversity brought out the best in Tablan as he disposed all his opponents with a total time of two minutes — capped by a masterful 29 second-win over Carlos Sandoval of UP in the Finals.
After another golden year, it’s about time for Tablan to look out for himself. This time around, he looks to conquer another field and, more importantly, watch his weight.
“Of course, I plan to graduate. Yun naman yung end goal natin, get a degree, find a job, or build a business. Yung judo is just a hobby. Although I love this sport, siguro medyo sideline na lang ito. Ang priority ko talaga is to make my parents proud,” the fourth-year architecture student gushed.
“For myself naman, I plan to lose weight,” he added.
“Kailangan ko rin talaga ma-lose yung weight para sa kapakanan ko.”
Moreover, Tablan is gunning for one more thing — a chance to represent his country.
“I’m hoping na makasali ako sa SEA Games. I’ll tryout for it. Let’s see! Ayoko muna pangunahan pero yun ang pangarap ko.”
Definitely, 2019 will be a big year for Tablan if he plans to go down as one of the best heavyweights in Philippine judo.