Young gymnast turns taekwondo sensation

Young gymnast turns taekwondo sensation
VICTORY SECURED. Richelle Mae Joy Robles triumphs at the Caraga Regional Athletic Games 2024, paving her way to the prestigious Palarong Pambansa. ADA JOY ROBLES

Richelle “Bejoy” Mae Joy Robles from Buenavista town in Agusan del Norte embarked on her Taekwondo journey with a single step onto the mat.

Initially immersed in gymnastics, the 12-year-old athlete discovered a passion for martial arts last summer at PNPTA Sharks Buenavista, where she eventually traded her leotard for a dobok.

Despite being relatively new to the sport, her dedication to training and growing potential marked her as one of the up-and-coming players in martial arts and combat, maintaining an undefeated record since her competitive debut.

Robles has displayed remarkable prowess, starting at her first tournament at the grade school level (white belt) at the first mayor’s cup in the Municipality of Las Nieves in 2023, where she clinched gold in both Pomsae and Kryurugi categories.

Advancing to the blue belt level, she competed in the Novice 1 category during the Mayor Cup Roxanne Pimentel Taekwondo Championship at Tandag City, where she again secured a gold medal.

Encouraged by her consecutive wins in local tournaments, Robles sets her eyes on national competitions.

Last November, she qualified for Grade School Novice 2 (red belt) at the 2023 Smart/MVPSF National Taekwondo Age Group and won gold in both Pomsae and Kyurugi championships.

Her victories continued at the Agusan del Norte Division Athletic Meet and the 2nd Mayor Romel C. Arnado Taekwondo Championships, where she dominated the Kyurugi and Grade School Novice 2 (brown belt) divisions.

Recently, Robles added another gold medal to her collection in the Kyurugi (Category 1) at the Caraga Regional Athletic Games 2024, securing her spot in the prestigious Palarong Pambansa 2024.

As she eagerly continues her impressive streak of victories, rigorous training sessions remain a core part of her daily routine in preparation for the upcoming national competition.

“I feel a little bit nervous and excited to play in this big event,” she shared during a recent interview.

Robles expressed deep gratitude for the unwavering support of her family, whom she considers her greatest strength and inspiration. Rooted in her faith, she consistently prays to God for protection and strength to sustain her energy throughout training and competition.

“I can say that I am ready to compete,” she said, showing her confidence in the intensive training sessions provided by her mentor, Jerry Faith Sencil, which are designed to enhance her mobility, refine her technique, and bolster her mental preparedness.

Beyond Taekwondo, Robles enjoys typical activities of her generation, such as dancing to TikTok videos and singing.

Her acting mother and guardian, Aunt Ada, plays a pivotal role in reminding her to enjoy her youth and balance her studies, social life, and athletic pursuits.

During school days, Robles regularly attends classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and training time falls between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Despite occasional conflicts between academics and training, Robles manages to maintain a strong academic record, recently graduating from elementary with honors, a testament to her discipline and determination.

As Robles looks ahead, her definition of success intertwines academic excellence with athletic achievement, emphasizing dedication, hard work, and a positive attitude.

With aspirations for a promotion to junior black belt and dreams of representing the Philippines in international Taekwondo tournaments, she remains grounded in the principles of Taekwondo—respect, integrity, self-control, and perseverance.

With optimism, self-confidence, and exceptional talent, Robles is poised to shine as she represents Region XIII - Caraga at the Palarong Pambansa 2024 in Cebu City, where she will compete in Taekwondo Kyurugi (Category 1), eager to showcase her skills and potential on a national stage. / Dana Gracielle Quirante, UP Tacloban Intern

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