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  • Help Pours Out For 11-Year-Old 'Barefoot Runner' Gold Medalist

    As her story went viral, many individuals offered support for the bemedalled athlete
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Help Pours Out For 11-Year-Old 'Barefoot Runner' Gold Medalist
PHOTO BY Jephry Agpalo, Predirick Valenzuela/Facebook
  • Nothing can dampen the spirit of an individual who has her eyes on the prize — and for an 11-year-old runner from Iloilo, that means clinching the gold even without running shoes.

    Rhea Bullos of Salvacion Elementary School in the province’s Balasan municipality caught the attention of netizens after her coach Predirick Valenzuela posted about her extraordinary achievement on his Facebook page.

    “New design of spike shoes, made in [the] Philippines NIKE, Congratulations, RHEA BULLOS of Balasan, 3 GOLDS, 400m dash Elem Girls, 800m run Elem Girls, 1500m run Elem Girls.”

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    This was Predirick’s caption for a series of photos of Rhea and her makeshift running shoes made out of plaster bandage wrapped around her feet and toes. The Nike logo and swoosh are even drawn on them for good measure.

    Netizens were quick to share Rhea’s fascinating story on social media, highlighting the grit and determination of the young girl despite the presumed lack of resources. 

    But Rhea, who won three gold medals and one silver medal in the ongoing Iloilo School Sports Council Meet 2019 held at the Iloilo Sports Complex on December 7, is just one of several athletes whom their coach calls “barefoot runners,” because they are not used to wearing spike shoes and prefer to compete without them.

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    “These children are using rubber shoes during practice especially [since] our training grounds are made of soils, grass and sometimes water,” the kids’ coach Joe Marie Sandoy told Sunstar. He says they prefer going barefoot since the running field is made of rubber.

    It was the coaches’ idea to have the kids use plaster bandage as foot protection. He allowed them to go barefoot because they are comfortable with it. 

    And while they are able to afford cheap spike shoes for the kids’ training, he adds, “We can’t afford to buy the branded ones, so these shoes only last while we practice.” 

    As her story went viral, numerous individuals have expressed their desire to help Rhea and send her a pair of shoes she can use for training and competing. Even Alaska Aces head coach Jeffrey Cariaso of the PBA has found a way to get in touch with the young athlete though social media.

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    “Thanks for the post. I was able to speak to Rhea and her adviser this morning. Thanks to those who messaged me also with her contact number,” coach Jeffrey wrote on Twitter.

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