Gold medalist Gabriel Moreno wants a simple life after Olympic success
NANJING, China – The smog-filled Nanjing sky gives no clue as to what the day’s weather will be. Young archer Gabriel Moreno looks out from his balcony in the Youth Olympic Village with uncertainty. His big black eyes show the dilemma he is facing.
It’s not just the weather he’s concerned about. The Games had jumpstarted his career as an athlete but he is doubtful of what his life will be like when he returns to the Philippines.
“My goal in life was to be part of the Olympics and win a medal. I’m very happy that I accomplished that,” said the 16-year-old of his achievement in the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games.
For most of the Philippine public, Moreno made history when he won gold in the mixed team event of archery in the second Youth Olympic Games. Even if he didn’t triumph in an individual event, his win gave the Philippines its first gold medal in the Youth Olympics.
“I just wanted to make my country proud. I wanted to give my best to the Philippines,” Moreno said.
Moreno, in a few days, will be welcomed back like a hero in a country that has lusted for gold since the modern Olympic era began. This, he said, makes him feel uneasy, as he is not used to that much attention.
A future star?
Stardom is relatively easy to achieve for athletes in the Philippines. From Manny Pacquiao, a boxer-turned-actor-turned-politician, to Michael Martinez, the lone Filipino athlete who competed in the Sochi Winter Olympics, many Filipino athletes immediately rose to fame after their success in sports.
Even the last Filipino athlete who won a medal in the Olympics, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, became a comedian after winning silver in boxing in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“No! I don’t have plans to enter show business at the moment,” immediately quipped the young Moreno after being asked if he plans to enter the industry.
But if he does decide to enter show business, it will be an easy climb for the young athlete. Aside from being “tall, dark, and handsome” – traits used to describe most Filipino stars – his grandfather, German Moreno, is hailed by many as one of the fathers of Philippine cinema. Many celebrities in the country today owe their breaks to the seasoned actor.
“I love my grandfather. He’s very supportive. I think I wouldn’t be here without him. I’m very thankful for him,” Moreno said.
“We’re very close. We would go to the mall and go to mass every Sunday. We always see each other,” the boy lovingly says of his grandfather.
A balancing act
Like most student athletes, life for Moreno is a balancing act. A high school student in De La Salle Greenhills, one of the top schools in the country, he said that life for him is a constant adjustment.
“I started archery when I was 6 years old. But it got harder as I progress in school. Now, I’m adjusting again since classes just started,” said the young athlete who often misses his classes to train and compete.
Moreno’s assistant coach Marvin Cordero says the young archer has a lot of potential. His skills are matched with perseverance.
“He balances archery with his academics. He trains every day even if he’s already tired from school. He also spends his weekends practicing,” Cordero said.
The third of 4 children, Moreno said he gets all the support he needs from his family. Aside from his grandfather, the 16-year-old is also very close to his father.
“My family is very proud of me and I’m very lucky to be with them. They were the first ones to enter my mind when I realized that I won. My dad and my family was there supporting me all the way,” he added.
Outside the archery range, Moreno, as most people would describe him, is just like any typical Filipino teenager. His life revolves around his family, his school, and his friends.
“Gabby is a really friendly kid,” says Philippine Young Ambassador Nadine Gutierrez, “He gets along with everyone in the team because he’s easy to be with.”
Looking after Moreno during the Youth Olympics, Gutierrez added how Moreno’s sense of humor uplifts people’s spirits. This joker attitude, however, must not be mistaken for his lack of motivation.
“He’s the one always making situations light by cracking jokes, laughing and smiling even when things are going bad. He's like any other 16 year old but he is incredibly focused and knows what he wants,” Gutierrez added.
“When I’m not practicing, I would just go out with my friends, watch movies, or study for school like what a normal teenager would do. Partying? I try to balance that,” the 16-year-old said.
He said his friends play a big part in his growth as a person, “My friends are very supportive. Before going here, they were cheering me on even if I had to be absent from school for a very long time.”
Chef at heart
Far from the intensity of competing in sports or the bright lights of show business, Moreno plans to pursue a career in culinary arts. He dreams, one day, of opening his own business.
“I want to pursue culinary arts after I finish high school. Right now, I just want to finish studying make lots of friends and have fun in life,” Moreno said.
His passion for the culinary arts, he said, comes from his favorite pastime, “I just like eating.”
In the long run, Moreno wants a simple life – something he may never have, given his recent success. “I just want to have my own business and a family,” he added.
Eyes on the prize
Moreno’s dream of a simple life will have to wait. With his historic stint in the Youth Olympics, this young archer’s athletic journey is only beginning.
“Next year, I still have to do my best to qualify for the Rio Olympics. I really hope I qualify,” he said.
Gutierrez, who has seen the young archer’s Youth Olympic journey, says the key to the boy’s success is that he lives in the moment, “He's a good kid just enjoying the ride and I think that's what makes him so successful: the fact that he's enjoying the entire process and not just the end goal.”
Even with his eyes firmly fixed on Rio 2016, Moreno at his young age is already thinking of his retirement from sports.
“I don’t have a clue yet as to when I will retire. But maybe it’s when I’ve accomplished what I want from sports – when I get a medal in the Summer Olympics. Let’s see,” he concluded, his eyes looking past the horizon as the Nanjing sky begins to brighten. – Rappler.com