Written By Mr. Garry Domingo, DLSZ Swim Coach
It’s been two years since Aki first threw his lot in triathlons. In those two years, he has competed in more than a dozen races across the Philippines and around South East Asia. His performance in these tournaments have caught the attention of both his competitors, and even their coaches; this earned him his place among the up-and-coming triathletes of the country. But contrary to his almost meteoric rise, his start as a triathlete couldn’t be more different from other athletes of his youth.
Inaki Emil “Aki” Lorbes (DLSZ 2020) got his first taste of triathlons in 2016. His invitation came from a fellow swimmer’s parent during a weekend training for DLSZ’s swimming bid for the UAAP. It wasn’t anything special; it was simply a suggestion that Aki should try out for the Philippine Aquathlon Championship later that year. Aki was initially hesitant to try out for the tournament. He was already collecting medals and recognition in swimming while still having the room to become even better. He feared that despite swimming being part of the equation, he may end up appearing fish out of water.
It was Anton Tangan, the parent of a triathlete from DLSZ, who convinced Aki to finally join the Aquathlon Championship. The Philippine Aquathlon Champion was the first of a series of events required to enter the Youth Olympic Qualifying Games. To do well in the tournament would open a lot of doors for an aspiring athlete like himself. The new prospect of qualifying for the Youth Olympic Games made Aki realize what he can achieve. And with further support from his family and friends, Aki started his preparations for what would be one of his most defining moments.
The Philippine Aquathlon Championship was held in Camayan Beach Resort in Subic Freeport on September 2016. Athletes from around the country were gathered to kick off their bid for the Youth Olympic Qualifiers. Aki has met some of these athletes while most were unfamiliar to him. The face of new competition never deterred Aki as the challenge always pushed the best out of him. But what he did not expect was the participation of the National Triathlon Team. Aki knew that they represented the country because they were the best. This left him intimidated as he was there by himself, in his borrowed tri-suit from long-time coach Anthony Lozada, while the National Team’s yellow triathlon suits and their complete supporting equipment distinguished them from the rest of the group. Armed only with his training and his new-found dream of joining the Youth Olympic Games, he raced against the Philippines’ best.
Aki won the tournament, handily beating the entire Philippine National Triathlon team in a triathlon by placing first in the rankings. His first win and — his stellar swimming skills that edged any advantage his competitors might have over him — set off a series of triathlon placements together with a brand-new set of eyes that watched Aki’s performance all throughout.
Another big break would come for Aki when he was selected to represent the Philippines in the 2017 ASTC Championships in Palembang, Indonesia. The race in Indonesia became a new test for Aki as he was pit against the best of the region. He did not place at the top spots of the tournament, but it did expose Aki to a new level of competition and drove him to train even harder for his bigger goal: The Youth Olympic Qualifying Games.
When the time came for the Youth Olympic Qualifying Games on June 2018, Aki had already collected the points required for a spot. He has had the event in mind for the past two years and trained tirelessly to show his best for the qualifiers. As the event drew closer, a storm hit the waters of the Subic Freeport area where the qualifiers were being held. The waters for the games were deemed unsafe for the swimmers and the event officials removed swimming as part of the event. Even if his strongest sport was removed from the rest of the tournament, Aki was still determined to race for his dream to be part of the Youth Olympic Games.
Despite all his efforts, Aki did not secure a qualifying spot in the Youth Olympic Games. Could it have been the removal of swimming? Or was it simply his training for the other parts wasn’t enough? Aki had already been through enough races at this point that he knew it didn’t matter. As the door for the Youth Olympic Games closed, another window of opportunity opened for Aki in the form of a formal qualification for the Philippine National Triathlon Team.
Since his win in the Philippine Aquathlon Championship two years ago, Aki became a prospect for the National Triathlon Team. They monitored his participation in triathlons and observed his overall performance. His show in the Youth Olympic Games – despite the absence of swimming – only furthered their interest in Aki. And officially after the Youth Olympic Games, Inaki Emil Lorbes officially became part of the Philippine National Triathlon Team.