Young Filipino swimmers end medal drought in 11th Asian age-group meet

Heather White (left) and Jamesray Ajido (right) win bronze medals for the Philippines at the 11th Asian Age-Group Swimming Championships.

Filipino tankers Heather White and Jamesray Ajido ended the Philippines’ medal drought in the 11th Asian Age-Group Swimming Championships at New Clark City in Pampanga on Tuesday night.

White, who is Filipino British, copped the bronze medal in the girls’ 100-meter butterfly, clocking in at a minute and 3.09 seconds. She finished behind Yeung Hoi Ching and Mok Sze Ki, winners of the gold and silver medals, respectively, and both from Hong Kong.

“I’m so happy to be representing the Philippines and to know that I have my fellow Filipinos by my side makes this victory a lot more sweet,” said White, whose mother hails from Pantukan, Davao de Oro.

Right after White’s historic win, Ajido followed up by capturing his own bronze.

Ajido, an eighth-grade student at De La Salle Green Hills, came in at third place in the boys’ 50-meter freestyle, shattering the junior national record with 24.34 seconds. He finished behind Hirata Toya of Japan and Wang Yaobin of China, who won the gold and silver medals, respectively.

“I’m happy that I was able to win a medal and [get] my best time,” the 15-year-old said. “[I’m] very happy that my hard training, early in the morning and in the afternoon, paid off.” 

Batang Pinoy 

Asian age-group meet
White flashes her medal after a podium finish at the girls’ 100-meter butterfly event. —PSC PHOTOS

Last year’s Batang Pinoy National Championships served as a showcase for both White and Ajido and provided a glimpse of their future victories.

White, who competed under the Parañaque City banner, captured seven gold medals during the Philippine Sports Commission’s flagship grassroots project. She was the most bemedalled athlete of the meet, tied with gymnast Karl Eldrew Yulo.

Ajido, who represented Mandaluyong City, emerged with three gold medals, the most in his class.

Asian age-group
Ajido during the boys’ 50-meter freestyle event.

Philippine Sports Commission Chair Richard Bachmann commended the young swimmers during his visit on Wednesday, emphasizing the significance of their achievements in the Asian age-group tournament.

“I am proud that the Philippines finally made it to the medal mark in this tournament. Congratulations to all our national athletes. This kind of tournament is a great instrument to further improve in the sport,” Bachmann said.

Advice to next gen

“Dream big, but also put in the hard work” were the exact words of eight-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist Akiko Thompson-Guevara to the next generation of Pinoy tankers.

Thompson-Guevara, who was in attendance at the tournament in New Clark City, believes that there’s much to be optimistic about in the Philippine swimming program. But as far as she is concerned, tenacity is the ultimate key to the success of aspiring national athletes.

“It’s a hard road, lots of tears,” said Thompson-Guevarra, now 49 and the most accomplished swimmer in SEA Games history.

“But if this is really what they want and the passion is there, then [they should] put in the work. That’s required,” she reiterated.

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