Speed skating: Philippine skater Anna Lourdes Rigos Cruz has twin targets

After her competitive debut in Singapore, the Philippines' Anna Cruz is "more than motivated" for next year's SEA Games at home.
After her competitive debut in Singapore, the Philippines' Anna Cruz is "more than motivated" for next year's SEA Games at home.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Cruz aims to make it to Beijing Winter Games and also teach sport to special needs children

For most athletes, the ultimate dream is competing and winning on their sport's grandest stage. Filipino short track speed skater Anna Lourdes Rigos Cruz's ambitions differ slightly.

While she, too, harbours hopes of competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, her dream is to teach the sport to children with special needs in the Philippines.

The 25-year-old, who yesterday won the women's 1,000m title at the South-east Asian Short Track Trophy at The Rink at JCube, held back tears as she told The Straits Times the forces behind her ambitions.

"I grew up with playmates who had autism and Down syndrome... At the time I had no idea because we were young and we played and talked and we were just the same," said the Makati native, whose first experience on ice took place in 2016 when she was on an exchange programme in Daejeong, South Korea.

"I used to major in creative writing but, after I completed that programme, I realised I wanted to teach and I chose special education as my major. Then I got into the sport and I thought maybe we can also put these kids into sport. I want them to feel included and get these opportunities too."

Her interest in speed skating was piqued in 2014, when she watched the sport on television during the Sochi Winter Olympics. Then, she practised by inline-skating as speed skating was not available in the Philippines yet.

PROCESS RATHER THAN SUCCESS

Wearing this skin suit is already an achievement for me. Our motivation for this race was just getting experience and finishing the race, so the medals are a bonus.

ANNA LOURDES RIGOS CRUZ, who contributed three of the Philippines' four golds in her first international outing.

For her and most of her nine team-mates in town for the third edition of the SEA Short Track Trophy over the weekend, the event was their first international one.

As such, Cruz did not expect to win three titles (500m and 1,500m in addition to the 1,000m).

This year's tournament featured 62 short track skaters from 11 countries. The Philippines finished sixth with four golds and seven bronzes. Singapore were third with 10 golds, 21 silvers and 18 bronzes - behind South Korea (13-8-3) and Malaysia (13-9-7).

She said: "Wearing this skin suit is already an achievement for me. Our motivation for this race was just getting experience and finishing the race, so the medals are a bonus."

The Philippines had sent just one skater (Kathryn Magno) to the last two editions. Magno, who did not feature this year, was also the country's sole representative in the short track speed skating competition at last year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Having had their first taste of competitive skating, Cruz and her team-mates are "more than motivated" for next year's SEA Games in Manila, where they will go for gold.

"For me it used to be an impossible dream. We didn't have speed skating in the Philippines yet, it's expensive (to pick up) and we didn't have coaches," said Cruz, who now lives in the province of Laguna.

"Speed skating tells me that I can be anything that I want. When I trained in Korea, I just shared what I learnt there with my team (in the Philippines). To me, speed skating is making history for my country and living the dream."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2018, with the headline 'Filipino skater has twin targets'. Print Edition | Subscribe