The Philippines continues to break records in the Southeast Asian Games — we’ve managed a record-breaking 114 gold medal-haul so far — and there seems to be no shortage of inspiring stories from our Philippine athletes. From World Champion Carlos Yulo sharing a tender moment with his mom, surfer Roger Casugaysaving an Indonesian rival from getting swept away by the waves, and 16-year-old gymnast Daniela dela Pisa securing her first-ever gold medal at the SEA Games — an amazing feat considering the young girl battled ovarian cancer when she was only 4 years old.
On Saturday, December 7, 2019, the Cebuana teen collected three medals — including the coveted gold at the women’s rhythmic gymnastics hoops event held at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. She also bagged bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics ball and clubs.
In an interview with ABS-CBN's Sports And Action program, The Score, Daniela shares that she did not expect to win in her SEA Games debut. “Ginawa ko lang ‘yung best ko,” she says.
Her mom, Darlene, who was also an artistic gymnast in her heyday, recounts how Daniela came to love the sport. “Two years old pa lang siya, nanood siya ng video [at] gusto na niyang maging gymnast. Kasama ko siya lagi sa gym, and at age four, gusto na niyang mag-gymnastics,” Daniela’s mom tells The Score, adding that it was really her daughter’s dream.
But that year, her brother accidentally hit Daniela’s stomach and they noticed that the right side of her stomach got bigger. It turns out that her ovaries had become enlarged because of cancer. Daniela had to go through surgery and chemotherapy to overcome the disease and thankfully was able to recover and pursue her beloved sport.
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“Seven years old, nag-start siya ng gymnastics. Hindi ko siya pinansin kasi takot ako sa mga nangyari sa kanya,” Darlene shares. “After one year, wala akong team — kasi isang team ng elementary, tatlo [na members]. Dalawa lang ‘yung gymnast ko, so pinasok ko siya. At her first [competition] naka-medal naman siya. ‘Yun tuloy-tuloy na siya.”
Darlene, who became Daniela’s first coach at rhythmic gymnastics, shares, “Bilib ako sa kanya. Kahit lagi kaming nag-aaway kapag training.”
Darlene adds that she was happy even if her daughter did not win any medal, but the young girl exceeded her expectations. “Happy ako sa anak ko. ‘Yung gusto ko sa kanya, na nakikita ng lahat ng tao na kaya niya. Kahit walang medal pero lumampas pa sa gold e.”
“Kinaya niya talaga, so ‘yung training niya from start until ngayon, sulit,” she says.