Speed skating: Speed skater Magno strikes double gold

Kathryn Magno (foreground) peeling away to win the women's 500m as Suvian Chua of Singapore slips behind her. She also won gold in the 1,500m event.
Kathryn Magno (foreground) peeling away to win the women's 500m as Suvian Chua of Singapore slips behind her. She also won gold in the 1,500m event. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

When short-track speed skater Kathryn Magno crossed the finish line during her 500m event as the fastest competitor yesterday, barely audible applause greeted her.

No team-mates cheered her, no entourage of coaches celebrated her feat, because there were none.

The 25-year-old from the Philippines is usually the sole representative from her country and yesterday was no exception at the International Skating Union Tri-Series South East Asia (SEA) Cup, held at the Rink at JCube.

But the lack of a cheer squad did not deter the Filipino-American - Magno was born and raised in San Jose, California - for she struck gold in both the women's 500m and 1,500m events with times of 58.152sec and 3min 33.034sec respectively.

Yesterday she made history by winning her home country's first international speed-skating medal overseas. Today she will attempt to make it a hat-trick in the 1,000m.

No stranger to being alone, Magno was also the Philippines' sole representative in the 2014 and 2015 Asian Open Short Track Speed Skating Trophy competitions. Both events were held in the Philippines and in the 2014 event she won three bronzes.

  • Day 1 winners

  • International Skating Union Tri-Series South East Asia Cup:

    • Men's 500m: Lucas Ng (Singapore) 46.116sec

    • 1,500m: Ng 2min 50.884sec

    • Women's 500m: Kathryn Magno (Philippines) 58.152

    • 1,500m: Magno 3:33.034

Her feats thus far are remarkable, considering that she was a figure skater for 17 years and started speed skating only two years ago.

Magno was introduced to figure skating as a five-year-old and was eventually offered the opportunity to represent the Philippines, where her parents are from, in 2008.

"For me," she said, "one of the great things I wanted to do was compete internationally. And the Philippines gave me that chance. I'm the kind of person who takes an opportunity if there is one, that's pretty much my ultimatum."

In 2014, after a two-year break to concentrate on her studies, she switched to speed skating and has no regrets.

"What I don't like about figure skating is how judgmental and subjective it is because of the judges' scoring, I had enough of it. In speed skating, you finish. I like the social vibe of it, it was more fun for me."

But the transition from one discipline to another was not easy. "(Figure skating) was about grace and standing straight... it's a showcase. But now (in speed skating), getting as low as possible to the ice, the squat position, I am still battling with that. You can still see a little bit of figure skating in me."

As with many athletes, Magno has had to struggle to fund herself. With a lack of financial support from the Philippine Skating Union, her trip to Singapore was entirely self-funded through selling T-shirts that she designed. The design graduate has also had to juggle a full-time job with her passion for the ice. Yet, despite these obstacles, she is determined to achieve her aim of excelling for the Philippines at the 2017 SEA Games.

Borrowing a quote from her first coach, she said: "Sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug. If you have a good day you're the windshield, you're strong. If you have a bad day, you're the bug who hits the windshield.

"It's all about being able to stick to something, making goals and striving to achieve those goals."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline Speed skating: Speed skater Magno strikes double gold. Subscribe