Dormitorio keeps Olympic hopes burning

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    DESPITE a disastrous outing in her Southeast Asian Games debut last year, mountain biker Ariana Dormitorio has not given up on her Olympic dream.

    The back-to-back women’s Asian Mountain Bike champion from 2016-2017 insists the memory of her heartbreaking experience in the SEA Games has virtually faded.

    “I believe that everything happens for a reason and you always have to look at the positive side of things and move on,” Dormitorio said of her forgettable stint in front of her hometown crowd in the women’s cross country race in Laurel, Batangas.

    Tipped as the top favorite and seeking the distinction of being the country’s first gold medalist during the 30th edition of the games, Dormitorio built a formidable 58-second lead with a lap to go, only to crash out and wind up in tears at the finish line.

    But the petite and pretty rider, who went into mountain bike riding full-time shortly after graduating from high school at the age of 16, said she is no longer haunted by the trauma of that incident.

    So while most people are still asleep, Dormitorio, 23, is often awake before daybreak, riding her way to train at the Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal, a 15 to 20-minute trip from her home in Fairview, Quezon City since her last international race in February in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

    In a tightly-contested race, she placed seventh out of a field of 14 riders in the Asian continental championships topped by China’s Jiao Banwa.

    Dormitorio trains six times a week starting Tuesday, averaging four to five hours in honing her cross-country skills, simulating the conditions of an actual race.

    Helping her train is her father-coach Donjie Dormitorio, who runs a mountain bike academy.

    According to her own lofty standards, the athlete, a three-time national women’s mountain bike champion, 2019 was not exactly a good year.

    Dormitorio placed 11th in the Asian Mountainbike Continental championships in Kfardebian, Lebanon in July 2019, a performance she attributed to her failure to adjust to the 2,000-meter altitude and cool race conditions with only a week to go.

    She fared even worse at the women’s cross country Olympic test event held Oct. 4-5, 2019 at the Izu Mountain Bike Course, venue of the Tokyo Olympic Games cross country event, in Izu City, 150.3 kilometers southwest of the Japanese capital. Suffering a gear malfunction just around 500 meters into the race after a Japanese rider struck her bike’s handlebar, Dormitorio struggled and wound up 36th in a field of over 40 riders.

    The only bright spot in her 2019 campaign was placing fourth in the Asian Mountain Bike Series leg in the middle of December last year in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

    Nonetheless, Dormitorio is undeterred in her bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games and hopes to race next year to earn more Olympic ranking points,  a daunting task considering that she is currently ranked 128th with 233 points from five races.

    The top 21 riders during the Olympic cut-off at the end of May next year will earn automatic berths to the Tokyo Games. A total of 37 slots in the men’s and women’s division of the mountain bike event are up for grabs.