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Never Too Young to TRI

By Keshia Fule

When we think of triathlon, the first thing that comes to mind are personalities like Chris McCormack, Javier Gomes, or our local triathletes, Nikko Huelgas or Monica Torres—buff, tanned adults who battle it out in events like the Ironman, Subit, or the more tame NAGT series. In fact, the last thing on our minds would probably be the likes of Wacky, much less STK stands.

So who’s Wacky? Wacky is a nickname for Juan Francisco Baniqued—the 8 year old reigning champ for the boys’ 6-to-8-years-old division at the Alaska Ironkids Triathlon held last August 13 in Camarines Sur. Thanks to the recent triathlon boom in the country, the sport is no longer just associated with adults and Ironman, as it has also become one of the more popular choices of activity for kids (STK stands for Super Tri Kids).

SHAKY START

Wacky swims for his school team, the Golden Eagle Ray Swim Team at Colegio de San Agustin- Binan (CSA GEAR). Under the tutelage of coaches Valentin and Willian Obmerga, the youngster was introduced to triathlon at the age of seven. Introducing the endurance sport was the coaches way of maintaining the interest of team members in swimming.

At that time, Wacky was still too young o participate in the existing DepEd swimming events, so triathlon provided an opportunity for him to take part in a competitive setting. His parents, Edgar and Teresita Baniqued, decided to enter their son in interschool cross country events, then aquathlon races. To their surprise, Wacky proved to be quite a swimmer and runner, which prompted Edgar and Teresita to develop his bike skills and try their luck in triathlon.

Not too long after, Wacky had been racing regularly in STK and Alaska Ironkids events, where he took on not only the triathlon event, but also the run and aquathlon leg—his good performance often landed him on the top three in his category. A month before the culminating Ironkids triathlon in Camsur, Wacky was able to nob the top spot in the aquathlon event held at the Philsport Arena. Surely enough, there was nothing left but to look forward to Camsur.

CAMSUR AND BEYOND

Like any other athlete on a mission, Wacky trained hard and made sure he was ready to take on one of the coutry’s biggest sporting event—a spirit and work ethic one wouldn’t really expect from an eight-year-old. Aside from his daily swimming practice after school on weekdays, he also worked on his biking and running during weekends.

Wackys supportive parents were there every step of the way—ready to help in anyway they could, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or financially. “Going into Camsur, we decided to buy him a mini race bike because the mini mountain bike he has was too heavy for him,” Edgar shares. They also make sure that they wouldn’t sacrifice education for sports. “We see to it that he has time for both. Right now he’s a Blue Eagle Awardee (grade with a general average of more than 89.5).”

Evidently, all their hard work and perseverance paid off, as Wacky earned himself a first place finish at the Ironkids Triathlon—a stark contrast from the asthmatic, shy little boy he was before. “Now, he has friends not only in grade school but also in High School. He’s more confident and has less time for TV. He’s healthier and his asthma doesn’t bother him anymore,” his parents proudly share. They also believe that parents should always be there for their kids—teaching them the value of winning and losing.

With Wacky’s success, great potential, and enthusiasm for the sport—he is surely someone to look forward to in the future. His talents, coupled with the unwavering support of his parents, will surely go a long way.

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