Kim Mangrobang tells us more about her SEA Games stint and her journey to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Just a few days after the SEA Games 2019, Kim Mangrobang is back at Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub—the same place where she trained before winning her second straight gold medal in the biennial tournament. This time though, Mangrobang returns to the sports hub with a different goal in mind. One that has never been done by many Filipino triathletes in the past: to represent the country in the Olympics.
Before Mangrobang starts training for the Olympic qualifiers, she’s making the most out of the little downtime she has. While she’s currently taking a one-week break, the two-time SEA Games gold medalist opens up about her recent remarkable achievement and what she aims to do as she starts her journey to Tokyo 2020.
Before we get into your recent SEA Games stint and journey to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, can you give us a brief background on how you got into triathlon?
I started swimming when I was nine. My parents were like typical ones who would send their kids to swimming lessons. Tapos hanggang sa time na ’yon, parang play time na ang swimming para sa akin. Hangga’t sa every day na ako pumupunta sa swimming pool tapos naging competitive na ako. Nung 12 years old na ako, doon na ako lumalaban sa competitive swimming. Hindi ako nanalo kasi sobrang liit ko at pag-dive na ng mga kalaban ko nasa gitna na sila ng pool tapos ako nasa start pa lang. Dahil cross training namin running, sabi ng coach ko bakit hindi na lang ako mag-try out sa Philippine triathlon team? So nag-try out ako sa national team nung 12 years old and luckily nakapasok ako sa junior developmental team. Since then, nag-start na yung career ko.
What are your biggest career accomplishments so far?
Racing in triathlon World Cups. In triathlon history, the Philippines never used to finished in world cups. Lagi tayong last, Did Not Finish (DNF), or hindi makapasok sa start list ng World Cup. Kasi para makapasok sa World Cup, kailangan ng points at rank. Sobrang happy ako kasi nakapasok ako at ang Philippines sa World Cup circuit.
I also raced in Cebu for 70.3. I finished third in the Asian Elite category. I did Camsur 70.3 and all the Subic races. I did a lot before I decided to go to Portugal. This year yung hindi lang talaga ako nag-race sa Philippines. Sa SEA Games lang talaga ako nag-race sa Philippines kasi 11-months ago nasa Portugal this year. Before SEA Games lang ako dumating.
Congrats on that remarkable milestone. You also just bagged gold in the 2019 SEA Games. What are your thoughts on winning back-to-back gold medals in the biennial tournament?
Sobrang happy ko and grateful sa lahat na nangyari sa akin sa SEA Games. Sobrang dami sumoporta sa akin sa journey na ‘to katulad ng coach ko na pumunta pa from Portugal para lang makapanood.
When did you realize that you wanted to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
Nung 2015 SEA Games, kalaban ko si Claire Adorna tapos nag-second place ako. Since second place, na-realize ko na mas kailangan ko pa galingan. Kinausap ko yung coach ko at nag-training camp ako sa Portugal. Doon din nag-start ang journey ko para mag-qualify sa Tokyo Olympics.
I learned to be independent and [to] rely on myself. I learned to trust my coach.
How was your life like in Portugal? What were some of the lessons you learned while training there?
Sad! [laughs] Kasi wala naman ako ginagawa. Training lang. Happy ako pag nag-te-training pero after training wala nang gagawin kaya medyo nakakalungkot siya. Ayon, nag-aral ako ng Portugese doon so medyo marunong na ako mag-Portugese. I learned to be independent and [to] rely on myself. I learned to trust my coach.
How are you training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
Next year, I will join a training camp with other regional triathletes from Brazil. We will start in January, until May na siya tuloy-tuloy. Makakasama ko na rin mga Brazillian triathletes. ‘Yun yung difference, hindi na lahat mga Portugese kasama ko.
What are the tournaments you’ll be competing in next year?
Mostly World Cups and continental cups. Baka hindi na ako masyado makita dito next year sa Philippines triathlon because I will try to qualify in the World Cups.
Speaking of your training program, where did you train here in the Philippines?
I used to train in Ayala Vermosa Sports Hub twice a week before the SEA Games. We used the track, swimming pool, and lahat ng facilities nila.
What makes Ayala Vermosa Sports hub a special training ground for triathletes?
It’s world-class. Sobrang ganda ng facilities nila and everyone is so friendly. Parang training center siya sa lahat na napuntahan ko abroad. Parang ganito rin ang training center sa Portugal. Sa Portugal, pag gising ko nandyan na ‘yung swimming pool, yung track, and yung difference lang is mas madami magagawa sa Philippines unlike sa Portugal yung training center lang siya.
The best [thing] in Vermosa I would say is the ambience. Hindi mo iisipin na mahirap mag-training. I did my last track workout here before SEA Games (two kilometers in the track), sobrang ganda. Kasi sa SEA Games sobrang init so it’s the perfect weather to train.