SEA Games: Speedskater bats for support after competing without a coach

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Kathryn Magno competes in the SEA Games at Empire City Ice Arena in Kuala Lumpur. She participated in the Games in Malaysia without a coach, and took it upon herself to fill that role for the Philippine team there. POC/PSC Pool

KUALA LUMPUR — Kathryn Magno will go home from the 29th Southeast Asian Games here without a medal, after placing fourth in the women’s 1,000-meter event at Empire City Skating Rink here on Wednesday.

Given the circumstances, however, simply making it to the Final A — the “medal race” — was already a remarkable achievement for the 27-year-old.

A former figure-skater who transitioned to speedskating just three years ago, Magno competed here without the help of a professional coach, the only speedskater to do so.

“It is a huge factor, not having a coach like the other teams,” said Magno, the Philippines’ lone representative in the event.

“I am the only skater that didn’t train in Korea, but it just shows what potential (I have), and what I’m capable of doing without a coach,” she pointed out. “I made it to the Final A, I ranked fourth in the SEA Games.”

“I think that’s pretty good for just training by myself, and doing what I can do on my own,” she added.

Magno, who also competed in the 500-meter race, advanced to the Final A after placing second in her heat with a time of 2:01.153. In the Final A, however, she was left behind by skaters from Malaysia and Singapore, and finished with a time of 1:51.893.

Nevertheless, Magno was delighted by her performance, as she not only made it to the Final A, but also improved on her personal best time.

“The girls I competed against in the Final A were way above my competitive level,” acknowledged Magno, referring to gold medalist Anja Chong of Malaysia, silver medalist Cheyenne Goh of Singapore, and bronze medalist Ashley Chin, also of Malaysia.

Ahead of the SEA Games, Magno’s most rigorous preparation came when a South Korean coach arrived in the Philippines for a training camp. She saw that same coach in Kuala Lumpur, as he was the one mentoring the Indonesian speedskating team.

Instead of a coach, Magno was accompanied in the sidelines by her father.

“I’m new to this sport, my family is new to this sport,” she said. “I came from figure-skating, so this is still all new, and it’s a learning experience. I mean, being here, getting this experience, you learn from it and learn from the mistakes.”

Magno, who led the small Philippine delegation on Wednesday’s closing ceremony, is hoping that her performance in the SEA Games catches the eye of potential coaches, as well as of the officials within her own federation.

“Hopefully, with what I was able to do here, they would be able to take notice that I need a coach, and hopefully get the help that I need, so I can move forward,” she explained.

Having a true coach will be a great help not just to Magno, but to the 11 other speed-skaters who are all hoping to represent the Philippines. Right now, Magno herself is the one “coaching” the team, including a 9-year-old skater.

“It’s a matter of our federation noticing that hey, there’s a team out here, and we’re willing to work hard and put the Philippines on the map for our sport,” she said.

Hopefully, that help will come in time for them to have a strong preparation for the 2019 SEA Games, which will be hosted by the Philippines.

“What I was able to accomplish by myself here, it only proves that the only way we have is up,” Magno said. “I’m really, really hopeful for 2019. I think that once we get the proper training and a coach, there’s nothing we can’t do. Nothing is impossible.”

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)



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