For SEA Games soft-tennis champ, pandemic test of character for quarantined athletes

Brian Yalung

Posted at May 28 2020 06:05 PM | Updated as of May 28 2020 09:10 PM

Bien Zoleta-Mañalac, a double gold medal winner in the last SEA Games, said her fellow athletes need to adjust to the new normal as time passed. Brian Yalung/file

Soft tennis is sport that could be permitted to resume. This is after reports that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) has given non-contact sports activities the green light to resume training while under general community quarantine (GCQ).

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, soft tennis national athletes have been training individually to keep themselves in shape.

Bien Zoleta-Mañalac, a double gold medal winner in the last Southeast Asian Games, said her fellow athletes need to adjust to the new normal as time passed. 

Their coaches, Divine Escala and Michael Enriquez, have handed out programs to make sure that the national team is in shape.

Zoleta-Mañalac said the new normal is something the squad needs to get used to. Before the outbreak, the team did court training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Gym workouts were done every Tuesday and Thursday. Now, all those have changed.

"Nu'ng March, nu'ng nag-start 'yung lockdown, medyo OK pa kami," Zoleta-Mañalac said. 

"Pero pagdating ng April, na-miss na namin 'yung galaw kasi siyempre sa court, kelangan malikot ka, takbo-takbo. Kaya ginawa ng coach namin, ginamit namin 'yung virtual app para magkaroon ng changes at para din ma-enjoy namin 'yung time ng workout. 

"Now, binabago weekly ang workouts namin para di kami maging stagnant."

Like many sports, soft tennis has already seen one tournament scrapped, the 9th Thailand International Soft Tennis Championships 2020 in Bangkok, which was scheduled in March.

Other than that, other tournaments the national team planned to participate in included the 2020 NH Nonghyup Bank Korea Cup International Soft Tennis Tournament and the Southeast Asian Soft Tennis Championships 2020. 

There were plans for the country to join The King's Cup World Tour Master 2020 International Soft Tennis Championships, but these were shelved due to coronavirus fears. 

But Zoleta-Mañalac, 31, said there is still one tournament that could still push through in November, the 9th Asian Soft Tennis Championships in Thailand from November 13 to 19.

With roughly five months left, the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde product acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the national team's momentum, particularly in the aftermath of its success in the 2019 SEA Games. 

However, Zoleta-Mañalac said she believes that it is also a challenge to them as athletes.
"Tingin ko dito ma-test 'yung discipline namin. 'Yung dedication sa pagiging atleta in terms of ano'ng gusto namin mangyari sa amin at pinaghahandaan namin," she said.

Facing uncertainty, she said she is trying to make the most out of her workouts and adding more motivation to it, knowing that staying in shape is meant not only to prepare the athletes for competition but also for their general health, too.

"No. 1 priority namin ngayon is dapat malakas 'yung resistensya namin," said Zoleta-Mañalac, who won the singles gold and the doubles title with sister Bambi Zoleta in the 2019 SEA Games.

" 'Yung magiging weapon namin kapag lumabas na kami, para din di kami madaling magkasakit kung sakali man." 

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2019 SEA Games