LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Palarong Pambansa has undoubtedly produced many world-class athletes in its 59 years of existence.
There's Elma Muros and Lydia De Vega for athletics, Akiko Thompson for swimming, Violito Paylo for boxing, and the list goes on.
Another name may be added to that list as 16-year-old Mia Meagey Niñura from Davao Region received recruitment offers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) in the US.
Filipino-New Zealander coach Andrew William "Enzo" Pirie, who is part of the Zamboanga Peninsula coaching staff, is in touch with UCLA Fil-Am runner Jessica Barnard on the future of Niñura.
(Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we wrote that coach Andrew William "Enzo" Pirie is Filipino-American. He corrected us to say he's Filipino-New Zealander. He is also not from UCLA but a member of the Zamboanga Peninsula region coaching staff. He is coordinating with UCLA regarding the future of Niñura.)
Pirie contacted Niñura's present coach Maylene Quimque when he saw her trail behind rival Jian Calis in their last face-off. Enzo saw potential in her right then and there.
Quimque thinks, however, that Niñura is too young to fly to the US. The trackster is currently in Grade 11 and her coach also serves as her guardian.
Negotiations are ongoing on whether Niñura’s family will allow her to accept the offer once she gets to college.
"Okay lang naman po sa akin (It's okay with me)," she said when asked by reporters if she would gladly go to the US to continue her dreams.
Aside from UCLA and USC, the University of Santo Tomas in Manila has also expressed desire to recruit the gold medalist for its college athletics team.
The Digos City native claimed the first gold medal of this year's Palaro in the secondary girls 3,000 meter event in the athletics category. She also broke last year's record of 10:10.6 by Northern Mindanao's Calis and replaced it with an impressive 10:03.4.
It's the first time for Niñura to bag a gold medal in her 6 years of participation in the sporting event.
"Sabi ko papanalunin ko po ito para maibalik ko naman po 'yung paghihirap ng coach ko," she said. (I wanted to win in order to give back to my coach.)
Photo by Danielle Nakpil/Rappler
Niñura doesn't only play for glory or for her education. Most importantly, she plays for her coach and her parents.
She's the only daughter of a farmer and a housewife, and admitted that her family has financial difficulties.
"Kahit po nag-iisa ako, nakikita ko yung paghihirap at pagsa-sakripisyo nila kaya ginagalingan ko po," Niñura said.
(Even though I'm an only child, I can see their hard work and sacrifices, that's why I do my best.)
She'll be competing again in the 800 and 1,500 meters. – Rappler.com
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