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    Nearly man Mervin Guarte a SEAG champ finally after switch to obstacle course racing

    Dec 6, 2019
    PHOTO: Jham Mariano

    FOR Mervin Guarte, the road to gold in the 30th Southeast Asian Games was, no pun intended, an obstacle.

    But the 28-year-old Guarte overcame challenges after finding a new way home in an emerging sport, finally becoming a SEA Games champion, a tag that has eluded him for years.

    Guarte won the SEA Games gold medal on Friday when he topped the individual 5k x 20 obstacle race at the Filinvest City in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, one of the six gold medalists for the Philippines in the event.

    If the name rings a bell, Guarte was formerly a part of the Philippine athletics team, winning four silvers and a bronze in a SEA Games career that began in 2011 while competing in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter run.

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    Guarte said he shifted to OCR after he was removed from the athletics team recently.

    “Lumipat ako sa OCR kasi dito ko nakita talaga ang posibilidad na mag-gold ako. Nagkaproblema rin ako doon. Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit ako natanggal. Undefeated naman ako doon. At least dito, sa paglipat ko, napatunayan ko sa sarili ko na kaya kong mag-gold,” said Guarte.

    Prior to the gold on Friday, Guarte never got one in the SEA Games, the closest coming in 2011 when he lost in the 1,500-meter run to an Indonesian by a mere .02 seconds. Guarte remembers it like it was yesterday.

    “Nauna ulo ko, nauna ‘yung dibdib ng kalaban,” said Guarte.

    Guarte said the transition from athletics to OCR was not as easy as it looks even though he already has a strong background in running.

    “Actually, nung nasa athletics ako tapos lumipat ako dito, nakakalamang ako. Sa takbo, mas malakas ako sa takbo. Pagdating ko dito, kailangan ko lang iimprove ‘yung obstacle. Ang hirap. Matagal ko inensayo. ‘Yung pagensayo ko dito, na-adopt ko rin. Ang training dito, hindi more on takbo lang. Kailangan mo palakasin takbo mo, palakasin mo lower (body) mo, palakasin mo ‘yung strengthening mo, makukuha mo muscle endurance, speed endurance, balance lahat,” said Guarte.

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      The transition became easier with the help of the Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Federation Inc. headed by president Alberto Agra as officials were very supportive of their build-up for the SEA Games.

      “Sa totoo lang, sobrang blessed ako sa paglipat ko. Lahat ng pangangailan ko, lahat ng gusto namin, binigay ng federation namin. ‘Yung pamilya namin, magkaproblema, kailangan ng suporta, walang problema. Sabihin lang sa federation. Sobrang mahal kami ng federation. Binigay lahat ng kagustuhan namin,” said Guarte.

      “Eto ang kapalit. Binigay rin namin lahat ng kaya namin,” he said.

      Guarte said the federation came in to help after his seven-month son Bien Marcus got sick and needed intensive care just three weeks before the SEA Games.

      “’Yung anak ko, lumagay sa critical na sitwasyon. Nagkasakit ‘yung anak ko, nilagnat, na-ICU. Walang ibang tumulong sa akin kundi si Atty. (Agra). Sobrang blessed ko. Napapunta ako sa team na kahit anong oras, nandiyan na kaya kong tumulong,” said Guarte.

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      Despite the predicament, Guarte continued to train, vowing that he will do his all for his child.

      “Mabuti naagapan agad. Okay naman na siya. Sabi nga ng doktor sa akin, bakit takbo ka ng takbo. ‘Yung anak mo nasa kritikal. Sabi ko, pag ‘yung anak ko, hindi gumaling pag ako di nanalo, parehas kaming talo. Wala kami parehas. Hindi ko puwedeng i-give up. Nandito na ako. Sumabak na ako sa mahabang training. Last three weeks na lang, sasabak na kami dito. Hindi puwede,” said Guarte.

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      “Dumating na sa punto na wala na ako sa wisyo eh kasi priority ko ‘yung anak ko. Gumaling lang anak ko, okay na ako. Mananalo ako dito. Buwis buhay kong gagawin ito,” said Guarte.

      Guarte showed he is the best in Southeast Asia in his conquest of the men’s event with a time of 25 minutes and 31 seconds. He beat compatriot Sherwin Managil by 45 seconds, and the bronze medalist by nearly three minutes.

      After going through such tough times in the build-up to the SEA Games, Guarte said he is here to stay at OCR, where he has found family.

      “Hanggang pag-retire ko, dito na ako sa pamilya na ‘to. Eto ‘yung pamilya, eto ‘yung team na nagbigay sa akin ng suporta lahat. Lahat lahat ng pangangailangan namin, lahat ng suporta, nagpapasalamat kami ay Atty. Al Agra. Sobrang bait niya. Lahat ng kagustuhan namin, binibigay niya. Pinalitan namin. Eto lang ‘yung bagay namin na kaya naming ipalit. Eto ang hinihingi niya, binigay namin,” said Guarte.

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      PHOTO: Jham Mariano
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