3 bravehearts fought through adversity

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NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar -- Adversity brought out the best in them. Karate-do fighter Ramon Antonio Franco and trackster Julius Nierras came to the 27th Southeast Asian Games reeling from the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” on their respective hometowns.


Using the tragedy as motivation, they left this sleepy Burmese capital with gold medals on their necks.

Tacloban-born Franco ruled the -55 kg kumite last week for karatedo’s only gold medals, while Nierras, who hails from Biliran, Leyte, was part of the 4x400m squad that blitzed past the field at Wunna Theikdi Stadium.

“I guess somebody up there is watching over me,” said Franco, who was training in Iran when Yolanda struck on Nov. 8.

“All those difficulties I experienced in training and being away from the family while the storm hit Tacloban made me a stronger person.”

The 32-year-old Nierras, whose aunt was among those missing because of the supertyphoon, was already eyeing retirement from the national team after the SEA Games.


Those plans are on hold as he hopes to help rebuild his family’s home in the province.

“The race is important to me,” he said. “I need to show them that I can still run. I need to renew my contract.”

There were other sob stories in Team Philippines in the Games.

Iris Rañola, the double-gold billiards winner in Palembang, Indonesia, two years ago, woke up to the news that her father had passed away in Zamboanga City, a couple of days before she was to compete in the
9-ball event along with Rubilen Amit.

Billiards officials had given her the choice to return home and grieve with her family, but she stayed on, opting to represent the country. She eventually won the women’s 10-ball bronze.

“She (Rañola) didn’t have to stay, she didn’t have to prove herself,” said Amit, who won the 10-ball gold to go with her silver in 9-ball. “Just to be here and compete for the country is worth more than winning a gold.” Inquirer.net