From October to November 2022, the Congress of Philippine Aquatics, Inc. (COPA) Reunion Swim Challenge gathered swimmers from all over the country into a healthy and energetic series of matches.
With competitors coming from private schools and public schools from the National Capital Region and provincial locations, three students from the Basic Education Department (BED) of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU)-Quezon City Campus stepped-up their game, earning a heap of medals in various events. They are Arbeen Miguel Thruelen, Grade 10; Paulene Beatrice Obebe, Grade 6, and Anya Dela Cruz, Grade 4.
Arbeen, named Most Outstanding Swimmer 17 Years Old, won gold medals in the highest Category A in the following: 200 Long Course (LC) Meter Freestyle, 50 LC Meter Butterfly, 100 LC Meter Butterfly, 50 LC Meter Breaststroke, 100 LC Meter Freestyle, 50 LC Meter Freestyle, 200 LC Meter Individual Medley (IM), 100 LC Meter Backstroke, 50 LC Meter Backstroke, and 200 LC Meter Butterfly.
Likewise, Paulene was named Most Outstanding Swimmer 12 Years Old, collecting gold medals in Category A for the following: 100 LC Meter Butterfly, 100 LC Meter Freestyle, 100 LC Meter Backstroke, 50 LC Meter Freestyle, 50 LC Meter Butterfly, 50 LC Meter Backstroke, 200 LC Meter IM, 200 LC Meter Freestyle, and 200 LC Meter Backstroke.
Finally, youngest challenger Anya was declared as the Most Outstanding Swimmer 9 Years Old and gained gold in all the following: 200 LC Meter Freestyle, 100 LC Meter Butterfly, 200 LC Meter Freestyle, 200 LC Meter IM, and 400 LC Meter Freestyle.
COPA founders Eric Buhain and Pinky Brosas shared that they are hatching more major competitions in the first quarter of 2023, and hope to continue their advocacy of “grassroots sports development” whereby swimmer athletes from underprivileged sectors are allowed to participate free-of-charge with Buhain and Brosas believing that more national “gems” can be nurtured if given the opportunity. Buhain also said that beefing up the training program for coaches is in their pipeline.
Meanwhile COPA Board Member and tournament director Chito Rivera intimated that they decided to extend the days of the tournament so that more swimmers could figure in the sprint, middle-, and long-distance events and experience the feeling of competing in an international environment. It is opportunities like this that athletes discover which events they can shine in, Rivera added. COPA held the enlivening tournament in collaboration with the Samahang Manlalangoy sa Pilipinas, Speedo, and Milo, and with the support of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Arbeen, Paulene, and Anya all belong to the Aqua Sprint Swim Club, head-coached by Manny Thruelen who is also father to Arbeen. The latter is now training intensively as he moves up to the SEA Games in 2023, while Pauleen and Anya will be competing in the nationals through the Batang Pinoy 2022 National Championship.
In an interview with the The Manila Times, Paulene expressed, “Gusto ko pong maging member ng Philippine Team in the future kaya talagang sinusunod ko ang program ni Coach Manny.”