Monday, July 4, 2011


We watched her stretch and warm up in a dark corner of the Marriott Wardman Hotel ballroom, contorting her seemingly frail frame until we feared she might break something, we could sense the great discipline and devotion that Maria Victoria Recinto puts in her chosen sport.

Recinto, 17, will represent the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia this November. She was born in Quezon City but grew up in Palo Alto, California.

She specializes in rhythmic gymnastics, perhaps one of the most exciting and exacting branches of the sport. It calls for individuals or teams to manipulate one or two pieces of apparatus such as balls, hoops, ropes or ribbons, combining elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation.

We saw a short demonstration of her immeasurable skill at the People’s Ball last month.

She is the reigning Philippine National and California State champion. Recinto reportedly competed for the first time at age 4 in Singapore. When her father was reassigned to California in 2002 when she was 8 years old, she shifted from artistic to rhythmic gymnastics.

She is currently under the tutelage of US National Team coach Nataliya Lisogor, the former Ukrainian national champion. Recinto reportedly trains 25-30 hours a week, increasing to 40 hours a week near competitions.

“I’m always at the gym practicing,” she said. Despite the rigors of keeping competitive on the mat, Recinto has managed to maintain her grades at the Gunn High School in Palo Alto, where she’s an incoming senior. She dreams of eventually joining the Ivy Leagues.

The teen is proud of her Filipino roots. “It is who I am as a person. Both my parents are Filipino and I was raised the Filipino way,” she was quoted saying.

Together with a school chum, Erika Cagampan, they’ve raised funds to buy school supplies for 300 Aeta schoolchildren in Zambales province. They’re raising the goal this year, they say, to raise enough money for a feeding program.

When other girls her age are busy with parties, Recinto has learned to focus on what’s important to her and pursuing them with energy and passion.

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