June 24, 2017, 3:04 am
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Nat’l gymnast follows ma’s footsteps

BANGKOK. – United States-based Tami de Guzman looked like just any mom looking after her Fil-Am daughter, Kaitlin, a rookie on the national women’s squad competing in the 14th Asian Junior Gymnastics Championships here.

There’s something very special with De Guzman, however. She did the country proud by winning a gold medal in uneven bars in the 1995 Southeast Asian Games in Chiang Mai, Thailand and added a team gold two years later in the Indonesia SEA Games.

Known then as Cintamoni de la Cruz, Tami migrated to the US with her husband, Larry, and they currently reside in Rowlett, Texas, a 45-minute drive from Dallas.

Larry is a former national water polo player who now works as a ground crew support staff of American Airlines at the Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport.

“Nagkita at nag-ibigan kami ng future husband ko sa Rizal,” the elder De Guzman said of the romance that blossomed into marriage between the two former national athletes inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex where they trained and were quartered then.

“No, I didn’t force her, this is what she (Kaitlin) wanted to do,” Tami, now a gymnastics coach, said of her daughter.

“I just took up the sport naturally,” the younger De Guzman said. “And I also like to travel.”

“Her!” the doe-eyed beauty responded when asked who was the gymnast she looked up to, referring to her mother as they rested inside the Nimibtur Gymnasium where the event is being played.

“And Jordan Weaver,” she added, referring to the American gymnast who won a team gold in the 2012 London Olympics.

Although already scouted by officials of the US junior Olympic program, the elder De Guzman said her daughter preferred competing for the Philippines, “so here we are!”

“Kaitlin has already reached level 10 in the US Junior Olympic program, which is the highest level. Last year she competed at the P&G Championships in St. Louis Missouri. She finished 11th overall in the uneven bars, and that’s for the entire country.”  

Asked if her mom is a strict coach, Kaitlin, who began gymnastics at the tender age of five, shook her head and said: “No, I have had tougher coaches.”

A grade 10 high school student, the younger De Guzman said she is focused on gymnastics practically every day except Sundays.

“Most of the time, my daughter spends six hours in the gym, except Wednesdays and Saturdays when it’s four hours,” said the athlete’s mom.

Kaitlin suffered a left hamstring injury two years ago that sidelined her for nearly a year, including recovery.

“Usually, this is an injury that gymnasts have difficulty recovering from,” the elder De Guzman said.

Kaitlin said she was excited in suiting up for the PH squad here and hoped she would be able to do well in her forte, the uneven bars, and also looked forward to her next international campaign, the Malaysia Southeast Asian Games in August.

“I don’t know if I will win a medal in Malaysia, but like just my mom I would like to make the Philippines proud,” she said.

Like mother, like daughter, indeed, seems to be the direction that Kaitlin is taking, and it wouldn’t be so farfetched she winds up doing the country – and her mom, of course – proud in winning a gold medal in the SEA Games in the not too-distant feature.    
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