Badminton player Steffi Denise Aquino remembers clearly how her face hit the taraflex floor when she was still learning the sport as a10-year-old girl. But she pressed on and is now a bemedalled athlete in her chosen sport.
Before her collegiate playing years, Aquino has already won three gold medals in three consecutive SOCCSKSARGEN Regional Athletic Association meets.
Her prowess as a badminton player also earned her a ticket to the Palarong Pambansa for four years.
It was during her years as a Palaro standout that she was discovered by the University of Santo Tomas (UST) coaching staff in 2011.
“I was first recommended to the coaching staff by my townmate who was a senior in the UST’s badminton pool back then. Since UST was also scouting for new players, they traveled to Pangasinan, the venue of the 2011 Palarong Pambansa Competition to watch and recruit new players. Actually, they already had a player in mind, but it so happened that the player they wanted and I met in the third round and I defeated her. That gave me the chance to be invited to try-out that summer that lasted for a week,” Aquino narrated.
Aquino’s years as a rookie ended in 2012, after she succeeded Patricia Barredo as UST badminton team captain. The 21-year-old shuttler is currently taking BS Business Administration major in Marketing Management.
The 5’7 Aquino and her teammate Alcaed Lee Sabanal bagged the silver medal in the mixed doubles category of the 2016 Philippine National Games.
Completing her five playing years in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, Aquino expressed having mixed emotions.
“It’s more than I can ever dream of, super cool, the fun and excitement during lead up games practices and team buildings. The pressure of waiting for your turn to play, the nail-biting decision games, the disappointment in losing and euphoria in every win, I’ll never forget those feelings. The level of competition is very high, I gained friends from different schools, had some highs and lows during our games but it is all worth it,” said Aquino.
Aquino aims to continue playing badminton and teach young children in Cotabato City, her hometown.
“As for now I am a special recruit/player of the Philippine Air Force and my contract is due to expire September 2017, so I’ll cross the bridge when I get there,” Aquino said.
Looking back, Aquino said that badminton taught her to be patient, humble, and disciplined at all times.
“The camaraderie among players, both men and women, our bonding moments together, the school chants and cheers, the seniors and the coaches, but most of all, becoming one for UST. All this shall live within me forever,” Aquino concluded.