Gold in pounds: Salamat wins SEA Games gold in cycling

Mark Escarlote on Jun 11, 2015 03:49 PM
Gold in pounds: Salamat wins SEA Games gold in cycling
Ang gusto ko lang kasi ay magpapayat para sa college and then nagtulu’y tuloy na --- Marella Vania Salamat (photo courtesy of Dyan Castillejo)

SINGAPORE --- All she wanted was to lose weight.

Who would’ve thought that shedding excess pounds can lead to a much greater purpose.

The whole country is now thanking Marella Vania Salamat for being the newest golden girl after grabbing the women’s individual time trial victory Thursday in the 28th Southeast Asian Games’ 30-km event raced over a relatively flat course at the Marina Bay area here.

The 21-year-old Salamat, a Dentristry proper sophomore at University of the East, clocked 44 minutes and 46.38 seconds to win the gold medal in just her first try in the biennial meet.

Impressive for someone who before weighed almost 200 pounds.

“Mababaw lang dahilan ko dati kaya ako nag-try mag-bike,” said the former bowler. “Ang gusto ko lang kasi ay magpapayat para sa college and then nagtulu’y tuloy na.”

One can say that destiny had a hand on her conversion from being a pin toppler to a champion cyclist.

It was national coach Cesar Lobramonte who spotted Salamat while she was biking as part of her cross training at the Mall of Asia grounds with her bowling coaches Edward Coo and Orlyn Batistin one morning back in 2013.

He lured her to take the sport seriously and Salamat fell in love with it instantly.

But it was not a smooth transition for Salamat.

Just like everybody else she endured countless spills coupled by bruises and occasional scratches earning the moniker as “Semplang Queen”.

“Palagi 'yang sumesemplang,” said Lobramonte of his rider. “Noong isang beses nasugatan yan. Pero ang sabi ko lang sa kanya ay sumunod siya sa akin kung gusto niyang (humusay) sa cycling.”

Scars didn’t deter her from pushing herself harder and everything paid off.

“Nagbunga ang lahat ng pinaghirapan ko,” said Salamat, who had to take a leave on her studies to prepare for the SEA Games. 

“Kasama na rin ang pagtitiwala sa sarili at sa extensive training namin sa Pilipinas,” added Salamat, the eldest of the brood of thee of Engineer and competitive bowler Rodolfo and dentist Marivic Salamat.

She won by almost a kilometer ahead of Thailand’s Chanpeng Nontasin, the 30-year-old time trial gold medal winner and massed start silver medalist in the 2011 Indonesia games, (45.96 seconds behind) while third place Singaporean Chan Siew Kheng, winner of the gold medal in 2013 in Myamar, was behind 2:58.53.

“She’s a very strong rider and if given the proper attention, she could go a long, long way,” national team head coach Chris Allison said of Salamat, who along with national teammate Avegail Rombaon, had to race against the men back home to hone for these games.

Salamat’s gold was only the second in women’s road race of SEA Games cycling for the Philippines after Baby Marites Bitbit topped the massed start race in the 2007 games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

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