Ex-world champ hopes to inspire next generation

NEW CHALLENGES. After conquering the world as a young athlete, Rinna Babanto hopes to discover the next generation of world class athletes as a coach. /
NEW CHALLENGES. After conquering the world as a young athlete, Rinna Babanto hopes to discover the next generation of world class athletes as a coach. / CLAUDINE FLORES

RINNA Babanto was a young dreamer from when she took a leap from dancing to proving ‘women can do martial arts’ after joining the Guadalupe Summer Clinic in 2009 out of curiosity, a move that led her to winning the World Championships at 16.

“At first, I thought taekwondo was a male-dominated sport…When I learned about Poomsae, it opened my eyes to a lot of things and it is one of the reasons why I joined taekwondo because of my curiosity and I myself want to prove that women can do martial arts, too,” said Babanto, one of the first Cebuanas to get the gold in World Poomsae Championships 2014, in Bali, Indonesia.

At a young age, Babanto admits being steadfast in finding oneself and eyeing the world arena, however this chapter of her life is not an easy leap.

“I’ve always wanted to become a world champion or even a future Olympic champion but God favored me to get at least one dream early on. It started when I was chosen to be part of the national training pool. From there, the challenges shaped me to become a World Champion at the age of 16. It was not an easy journey because I was a high school student in Cebu at the time and I left my family and school for a while to pursue my dream in Manila,” said Babanto.

Coming from a public school, her early years in martial arts tested her patience and dedication as she started to skip month-long classes to prepare for bigger competitions like the Palarong Pambansa.

However, Babanto decided to transfer to Southwestern University Phinma for her high school and went to De la Salle University in Manila, where she won first UAAP poomsae “most valuable player.”

She also started representing the country in international meets like the Southeast Asian games.

“I had a lot of difficulties as a national athlete. As a national and student-athlete during my playing years, balancing school and athletic responsibilities was one of the most challenging parts, there’s also the added challenge of balancing physical and mental health since I was an athlete from the province coming into a new environment,” said Babanto.

Even in a new environment, the world champion continued to carve history; she became part of the Poomsae national team in 2012 and the DLSU Taekwondo Poomsae Team in 2014. In 2018, Babanto won the bronze medal in the 5th Asian Poomsae Taekwondo Championships in Vietnam. She also won the bronze in Team Female Under 30 at the Asian Games in the same year. During UAAP Season 81, she got the gold in the individual female and mixed pair event category and was the overall champion as well. She also got a bronze at the 29th Seag and in 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

However, in the middle of her 2018 Asian Games preparations, Babanto, she had to deal with a serious injury when she had meniscal tear, leaving her with only two months

to recover.

But Babanto did not waver as her team clinched a bronze medal at their first appearance in the Asian Games for Poomsae.

“As one of the junior pioneers of the national team years back, it was a great honor and pride to represent my sport and country on the world stage…The Philippines has been known to be a powerhouse in Poomsae and it was a great feeling to be part of it. Continuing the legacy is what fueled me to continue to serve, build and pass my knowledge to the aspiring ones,” said Babanto.

Now 26, Babanto is taking on new challenges as a newbie coach and as a mother of a one-year-old baby boy.

“This transition in becoming a coach has always been a dream of mine. Trusting the new generations to continue the legacy and building future champions in court and in real life is what fuels me to keep going. I have a lot to learn in being a coach just like when I was a national athlete where I started from not knowing much and I think that is the beauty of our journey to success,” said Babanto.

Babanto is thankful for not giving up despite having doubts along the way. And now, she is ready to give back to the community through training young talents.

“I have this quote that I lived by since I started, it says, ‘It all begins and ends in your mind.’ It is all in the mind. Whatever obstacles and adversities you are facing in life, you will always have the choice to make it happen. The power to control your mind and body by getting the fuel from your love and passion to your sport is the key, also a mindset that ‘you will never lose if you try and do your best -you just learn’,” said Babanto.

Now no longer part of the national team, Babanto is excited being a local coach.

“In sports we have coaches and in life we have parents, so as teammates and siblings. Both have to do with mental, emotional and physical efforts to experience. Life and sports teach us so much and let us handle obstacles and challenges every day in life. I learned that we need to put everything in a balance because we shared a common purpose,” sadi Babanto.


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