By: Lindsay Santos
Photos By: EJ Negre
Four bobsled athletes have moved to Calgary, their official training home base for the next six weeks.
Philippine Coast Guardsmen Rolando Isidro, Jeffrey Dela Cruz, Joseph Acosta, and Jerby Deriada with the Philippine National Bobsled, Luge, and Skeleton Association, Inc. (PNBLSA) arrived at the Calgary airport Jan. 28.
PNBLSA founder and president Buddy Cunanan explains that the goal is to establish a permanent training home base in Calgary and to qualify for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
In partnership with the Alberta Bobsleigh Association (ABA) and with the support of the Filipino Community and sponsors, San Miguel Corporation and Philippine Airlines, the Philippine Bobsled Team have successfully achieved their first goal.
“Their stay in Calgary was facilitated by the Filipino Community,” Cunanan says.. “In particular, they are being hosted by a Filipino couple that owns a karate/martial arts school with spacious on-site dorm accommodations.
This couple found out about the team through the news report of Mabuhay Calgary and contacted me directly.”
Organizations around the city like the Filipino Chamber of Commerce Alberta, the Fiesta Filipino committee, and volunteers welcomed the team with hospitality and rallying support from the rest of the Calgary Filipino community. The bobsled team members have been able to share their story as the first bobsled team from Southeast Asia vying for a spot in the Winter Olympics at functions held for them by the Filipino community.
Isidro, Dela Cruz, Acosta and Deriada say they are grateful for all the support they’ve received from the Filipino community since relocating to the city at the end of January.
“The Filipino Calgary community has been so helpful and nice and welcoming,” Isidro says. “We’re so happy to be here.”
The PNBLSA have also been working closely with Sarah Monk, the Technical Director of the Alberta Bobsled Association, and head coach Dennis Marineau, who has taken the team under his wing. The partnership has helped ensure the Philippine Bobsled Team has the resources, they need as they prepare for their first bobsled competition on Canadian soil, the ABA Provincial Championships Feb. 26 – 28.
Isidro and Dela Cruz are no strangers to the bobsled competition circuit. They had their first taste last year at Austria’s Europa Cup. Their experience and composure as the drivers are a grounding force on the team while brakeman Acosta and Deriada add a burst of youthful energy to the mix.
“Together, we hope to be able to surpass all the challenges here,” Dela Cruz says.
In stark contrast to the sunshine and warmth that they’re accustomed to in the Philippines, adapting to the cold temperatures and snow has proven to be one of the team’s early challenges, but in the face of Calgary’s frigid winter weather, they’ve managed to make the adjustment in stride.
“It’s very, very cold here but that’s okay, we can handle it, Acosta says. “It’s exciting and I’m enjoying it.” Deriada agrees it has been an interesting ride so far.
“It’s a very nice experience,” he says.. “It’s new for me and challenging, but we get to represent our country in the highest form of competition so it’s a blessing.”