Tropical RP produces young champion ice skaters
FOR 12-YEAR-OLD Verniece Bulan Enciso, living in a tropical country like the Philippines never figured in her choice of a sport.
?It?s grace that?s important,? said one of the country?s young champion figure skaters.
?That has always been the common notion, how can we be good at it considering that we do not have snow,? quipped her dad Verne. ?I guess it?s the uniqueness of the sport in a tropical setting that makes it a challenge,? he added.
Indeed, his pretty daughter has proven time and again that despite the initial disadvantage posed by living in a country with only two seasons, Filipinos can become competent figure skaters with the talent, flexibility and artistry to outshine their foreign counterparts.
For the past seven years, Verniece has already won over 100 medals -- 65 golds, 32 silvers and 15 bronzes -- in various local and international competitions. The most recent of these was Skate Asia 2006 held last month in Shenzhen, China, where the Philippine team emerged as the overall champion.
Hundreds of skaters from over 30 countries, including China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Dubai and the United States, participated in the skating contest.
Verniece, a member of the RP team since 2001, brought home eight medals: Three golds, four silvers and a bronze, after competing in the technical, artistic, solo compulsory, interpretative, pair, couples tech, team compulsory and production events.
?I always enjoy doing my artistic program because of the graceful moves I have to do,? Verniece, a fan of Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, told the Inquirer when asked what her favorite event was.
Even though she may be intimidated by the judges at every competition, when the lights dim and the music starts to play, Verniece said she forgets she?s performing in front of an audience. ?Even if I don?t win, I keep reminding myself that I have to do and show them my best,? she added.
The young champion began figure skating when she was 5 years old. ?My grandfather was the first one to bring me to the rink. Both of us would rent skates and he would teach me how to glide,? she said. ?It took off from there.?
From the moment she underwent formal training in figure skating at a popular mall, Verniece proved to be a natural in the sport. She immediately took to the skating rink as if it was a giant playground, mom Mylin told the Inquirer.
Gifted with nimble feet and a slender, graceful body, Verniece started competing with other skaters at age 6. Her first taste of victory came during the Skate Manila 2000 competition held at the SM Megamall inMandaluyong City where she got a bronze medal.
A year after, Verniece bagged four gold medals at her first international tourney, the Sky Rink-Hong Kong ISI Asia Open held in Hong Kong.
Last year, Verniece glided out onto the ice once more to take part in the 2005 Philippine National Figure Skating Championship where she emerged as the national champion in the Novice-Ladies Division.
The young champion, a sixth grader at the Southville International School in Las Piñas City, admitted that she has made a lot of sacrifices, particularly in her studies, to undergo rigorous training for competitions.
Last month, she had to take a two-week leave from school because of the skating competition in China.
?Now, I have to lie low a bit because I have a lot of catching up to do in school,? she told the Inquirer.
But despite her tight schedule and the demands of her chosen sport, Verniece has managed to excel in school. A consistent academic excellence awardee, she is also president of the Junior Student Council and a member of the Southville International School and Colleges Achievers? Circle.
Verniece said she also has had to sacrifice time with her friends to stay focused, especially if there?s an upcoming competition.
?I also have to watch the food I eat because I always have to be fit or else I will have a hard time jumping and spinning,? said the girl who confessed to having a sweet tooth.
Still, she said she has no regrets as skating has allowed her to make new friends and has also imbued her with a sense of discipline ?different from other children my age.?
Apart from that, she considers the experience of being able to perform in front of a lot of people from other countries as one of the most enjoyable parts of every competition.
?Not everyone is given the chance to do that, and for me, it?s not just about winning, it?s about doing and giving your best,? Verniece said.
When preparing for a competition, she trains for two to three hours every day after class; otherwise, she does it every weekend.
There was a time, however, that Verniece felt she wanted to give up figure skating, Mylin said.
?She was having a hard time balancing her studies and ice skating. She got tired of the endless practice sessions. After practicing for the last competition, here comes a new one, so she has to practice again,? she recalled.
But it did not take long for Verniece to change her mind.
?I miss being on the ice. I feel that it?s part of me already,? she said.
Verniece credits her parents for helping her keep her focus on her sport, which, her mom admitted, is very expensive.?If you really want your child to excel in this field, you have to support her by allowing her to compete abroad in order to boost her confidence. Add to that the training, plane fare, costumes and equipment,? her mother said.
Asked what she would like to become someday, apart from a renowned figure skater, Verniece said she has yet to make up her mind.
But she is certain, though, that no matter what career path she decides to take, her love for the sport would not be far behind. Tina Santos
Inspiring Issai also finds treasure in Shenzhen ice
IT MIGHT INDEED BE a bit of a stretch to find an ice skating champion in a tropical country. But that hasn?t stopped Anna Isabelle Villafuerte from achieving her goals either.
The talented 11-year-old won seven medals for the Philippines in the recent Ice Skate Asia 2006 in Shenzhen, China, which drew a horde of participants from Asia, the United States and the Middle East.
The list of accomplishments would make one think Issai grew up in a country where winter is part of the calendared climate: four gold, one silver and two bronze medals spread over seven different competitive classes.
The gold medal haul came from the Stroking Alpha (solo), Couple Spotlight Drama, Technical Alpha (solo) and Production Number (team).
The silver medal came from Solo Spotlight while the bronze medals were tabbed in the Surprise Alpha and Jump and Spin solos.
Her efforts helped Team Philippines successfully defend its title in the prestigious event, and setting up a possible hat trick next year, when the country hosts the 2007 edition.
Issai is the daughter of Mariano ?Bong? Villafuerte and granddaughter of Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte of Camarines Sur. She is now preparing for the Bandung International Ice Skating Institute Open in Indonesia and the Skate Asia Winter Classic in Singapore later in the year.
Her goal is the International Competition in the US in July 2007 and the Winter Olympics. Francis Ochoa