Nine-year-old Jillianne sparks hope, inspiration

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Calistha Jillianne R. Salazar during the girls’ 50-meter breaststroke event in the 52nd Philippine Swimming League (PSL) Leg Series, dubbed The Manila Times College (TMTC) Swimming Championship, at the Rizal Memorial Pool in Manila. EDWIN MULI

Calistha Jillianne R. Salazar during the girls’ 50-meter breaststroke event in the 52nd Philippine Swimming League (PSL) Leg Series, dubbed The Manila Times College (TMTC) Swimming Championship, at the Rizal Memorial Pool in Manila. EDWIN MULI

A NINE-YEAR-OLD girl whose legs have been paralyzed since birth stole the limelight on Sunday at the 52nd Philippine Swimming League (PSL) Leg Series, dubbed The Manila Times College (TMTC) Swimming Championship, at the Rizal Memorial Pool in Manila.

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Calistha Jillianne R. Salazar swam the 50-meter breaststroke event in 2:21.13 minutes to capture the gold medal and win P5,000 in cash courtesy of PSL legal adviser Atty. Luz Arzaga-Mendoza.

Five hundred swimmers from 61 clubs all over the country took part in the annual swimming event, held in partnership with The Manila Times College.

“We are very happy to see Jilliane swim in front of many people and we’re so thankful to God for the blessings he gave our daughter,” Jillianne’s father Elvin, who works as a seaman, told the Times in an interview.

“We raised her like a normal child with confidence,” he said.

Jillianne, who was born with the Spina Bifida, a defect that paralyzed both her legs, was accompanied by her father, mother Elma Salazar and 12-year-old brother Lance during the special event of the competition.

“There is no plan yet if she can join the swimming para games team because she’s still very young, and this is the second time she competed in a swimming tournament,” Elvin said. “We are just hoping she develops well in swimming despite her situation.”

He thanked the PSL “for giving our daughter a chance to swim in their tournament.”

Jillianne, who is Grade 3 at Governor Hills Science School in General Trias City, started to swim last June for her therapy.

Swimming coach Junnet Abesamis encouraged her parents to let their daughter to join competitive events.

“I told her (Jilliane) parents why not allow her to swim in different competitions? That will be a good exposure to her to build up her confidence,” said Abesamis. “She is also a member of the Department of Education team in Cavite.”

Jilliane wants to inspire other athletes with birth defects.

“She is very happy and likes to help other people too,” said her father. “She is so positive.”

“It’s really a great pleasure for the PSL to help someone like Jilliane,” said PSL President Susan Papa.

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